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Film / Duel For Gold

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Duel for Gold is a 1971 wuxia film released by Shaw Brothers, starring Ivy Ling-po, Wang Ping, Chin Han, and Lo Lieh. Notably the first of many wuxia from long-time Shaw director Chor Yuen, the film is unusually bleak (even by Shaw standards!), full of characters with Grey-and-Gray Morality and questionable moral allegiances.

Opening right away with it's narration stating the film is about "greed, lust, and people willing to kill for money"; the film revolves around a band of rogues, including the thieves, the sister Yu Yen and Yu Ying, the bandit lord Master Shen, Shen's sworn brother Hua, and the marauder Wen Li Hsien, all whom had their eyes on twenty crates of gold in a vault. Avoiding attention from security bureau leader Teng Qi Ying (Lo Lieh in a rare good guy role), the rogues decide to form a truce to steal all the treasure, but then greed got the better of them and ends up biting them back in their asses.

Duel for Tropes:

  • Action Girl: The sisters, Yu Yen and Yu Ying, a pair of master thieves and capable swordswomen.
  • Anti-Hero: Applies to ALL of the characters. They are the heroes the audience are supposed to root for, but they're thieves and murderers whom are willing to even betray and backstab each other for gold.
  • Arc Words: "The gold is just too tempting." tends to be spoken by characters before backstabbing each other for the gold.
  • Blood Is the New Black: In the ending battle, the Yu sisters, Master Shen and Wen Li-Hsien gets plenty of blood - both theirs and each others' - all over their clothes.
  • The Caper: The heist for the vault near the third act, pulled off between the Yu sisters, Master Shen and Wen Li Hsien, who had formed a (somewhat uneasy) temporary truce. It works, they got the gold, but after fleeing into a valley their greed got the better of them.
  • Cain and Abel: The Yu sisters, and the sworn brothers Hua and Shen. Whatever relation they have as siblings are flushed into a toilet once the gold is involved.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Everyone.
  • Downer Ending: The film ends with all the characters dead, having backstabbed and murdered each other for the cart full of gold, and their dead bodies strewn all around the chests of gold spilled in the wilderness. The End.
  • Duel to the Death: The film's final battle, between the Yu sisters, the bandit Master Shen, and the marauder Wen Li Hsien, for the carriage full of gold. Nobody lives to claim their rewards.
  • Enemy Mine: The Yu sisters, Bandit Master Shen and marauder Wen Li Hsien momentarily puts their rivalries aside in order to rob the vault for the chests of gold, but after getting what they want, they immediately plots to backstab and kill each other.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The named characters are all bandits, marauders and thieves, who had no qualms going for each other's throatsd in order to covet the wagon full of gold for themselves.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The entire movie is just a lengthy duel between the main characters, for the gold they're after. It's pretty straightforward.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The movie literally opens with a shot of the main characters' corpses in a valley, near several crates of gold spilled all over the place. Would it surprise the audience when the film concludes with a Downer Ending?
  • Gold Fever: The film's plot revolves around the thieves, rogues and marauders who decide to put their differences aside to steal twenty crates of golden ingots from the Imperial bureau, only to be consumed by their greed and backstab each other along the way. This is even more evident between two of the thieves, the Yu sisters - family means nothing when all that gold is involved.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: All of the named characters. Makes sense, since they're all thieves and bandits.
  • Greed: The Fatal Flaw of each and every single character, which proves to be their downfall.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with a scene in a valley where three bloodied corpses ( belonging to Shen, Wen, and Yu Ying) are propped which near several opened crates of gold ingots. The movie then flashes back to a story of betrayal among elite thieves, culminating into the titular duel.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
    • Subverted early in the film, when Yu Ying pretends she had accidentally impaled herself on her sword. It's a dud weapon with a spring-loaded blade.
    • Hua, the former sworn brother of Shen, meets his end on a pointy bamboo rod. In his brother's hands, no less, thanks to their struggle for gold ownership.
  • It's All Junk: The carriage full of gold, which leads to the four characters who stole it killing each other in a desperate attempt to hog all the treasure for themselves.
  • In a Single Bound: In classic wuxia fashion.
  • A MacGuffin Full of Money: This one is a horse carriage filled with chests and chests loaded with gold ingots, which the four main characters are willing to backstab and slaughter each other to claim all the gold for themselves.
  • Mle Trois: The climax of the film's first act, an extensive sword duel between the thieving Yu sisters, Security chief Master Teng, and legendary bandit Teng. They quickly depart without killing each other, saving their squabble for a later date.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Played completely straight; the moment the main characters get the gold for themselves, it's backstabbing time! Even the sworn brothers Shen and Hua, and the Sibling Team of the Yu sisters, doesn't give a single damn about honour for the gold.
  • Potty Failure: Early in the film when the Yu sisters are pretending to be public performers, they put on an intense, nail-biting show involving balancing on each other's swords. A nearby child watching the performance ends up wetting herself; said child was later scolded by her mother for ruining her clothes after the show ended.
  • Sword Fight: Most of the action scenes are clashing between swords, including the lengthy finale where the four main characters battles each other to the death using swords.
  • Villainous Friendship: Early on between the main characters, the Yu sisters, sworn brothers Master Shen and Hua, and the marauder Wen Li Hsien. Until they get their hands on the gold.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Early in the film, Yu Ying uses this method, pretending to have accidentally impaled herself during a public show, to be rushed into the nearest building - the bank the Yu sisters were planning to rob - where she could await medical attention.
  • Wuxia