The Duel Blu-ray review
It’s a few of decades after the United States took claim of Texas, with the Rio Grande serving as the barricade between it and Mexico. Still, dozens of Mexican corpses keep showing up on Texas soil, the last of which was a relative of a general south of the border.
The murders come to the attention of a Texas Ranger named David Kingston (Liam Hemsworth, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE), who is tasked to investigate the situation. Tagging along is his wife, Marisol (Alice Braga, 2014’s KILL ME THREE TIMES), who fears for her husband’s life yet is really joining the team so her welfare can be put at stake sometime later in the movie.
The main focus in Mount Herman is Abraham Brant (Woody Harrelson, John Hillcoat’s TRIPLE 9), who has recently converted himself into a preacher (and if that wasn’t clear enough, he goes by, yes, The Preacher), with the entire town on his side and under his thumb. From the title, it’s clear there will be a duel between David and Abraham, right? It’s actually more of a shootout with obstacles to hide behind, but by the time the scene comes around, it won’t matter if the two are playing Frisbee on a skyscraper beam—the viewer will likely have zoned out long before that.
Those behind THE DUEL—that’s director Kieran Darcy-Smith (2012’s WISH YOU WERE HERE) and writer Matt Cook (who penned the aforementioned TRIPLE 9)—are clearly aware of the genre tropes and have cluttered the movie with so many of the obvious ones. (Right off the bat, there’s a stranger arriving in town to suspicious stares; said stranger even serves as the officially trying to deliver justice to a corrupt leader, so that’s at least a twofer.) But simply lumping in that which has been done in the genre since its beginnings doesn’t make for a very compelling watch. Yes, the ducks (or, rather, horses) are in a row, but what’s wrong with tipping them over now and then?
Despite the lack of depth within the story, lead Harrelson makes something of a meal out of his screen time. Although still not given a whole lot to do other than be the resident top baddie, Harrelson delivers his lines with a directness that works well for the character and makes him quite sinister, as witnessed in the sermon scenes. (This must be especially difficult considering he has to keep a straight face while the absurd “big reveal” comes out.) Another standout is Emory Cohen (BROOKLYN), who also seems to be enjoying the role.
Despite a small but useful selection of enjoyable performances (Hemsworth doesn’t fit here, as he merely runs through the motions), there isn’t anything to chew on in the town of Mount Herman. It all looks how it’s expected to, sounds how every other simple-minded western does and plays out how one would expect. The only shock in THE DUEL is that there is no actual duel.
Video: 2.39:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details and textures are strong and add to the look of the movie.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. Dialogue is clear and the sound effects (particularly in the gunfight) come through without flaw.
Audio commentary with director Kieran Darcy-Smith and production designer Toby Corbett: The pair offers a passable commentary, although there is nothing remarkable within.