Movie Review: The Duelist is a ludicrous revenge fantasy without the fun

Expensive-ish (by Russian standards, anyway) and claustrophobic, Aleksei Mizgirev’s The Duelist resembles an unholy cross of the worst of Tom Hooper and Zack Snyder—and worse yet, it’s mostly diverting. Stalingrad‘s Pyotr Fyodorov plays Yakovlev, a disgraced nobleman who returns to mid-19th century Saint Petersburg as a hired gun. Yakovlev is one of those black-clad antiheroes who spends much of his time reminding the viewer that he’s an antihero. He is a man with a dark past, a sharpshooter (his signature trick is blowing a shot glass off his own head with a ricocheted bullet), and a contract killer. Paid by unknown conspirators, he provokes noblemen into deadly duels with the help of a nameless German accomplice (Martin Wuttke).

The premise of intrigue and revenge in a high-society Tsarist underworld is irresistible and pulpy, but Mizgirev’s script is an indigestible, soap-operatic mess of backstories, clichés …

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