Scott, a name in TV commercials making his first feature, brings little overall thrust, working instead in short bursts.
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The film comes closer to working than it has any right to, given the curious casting (Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel) and director Ridley Scott's inability to sustain dramatic tension or build a coherent scene.
In spite of the material's thinness, and even though Carradine and Keitel look ridiculous sporting fancy duds while speaking bodice-ripper dialogue in flat American accents, The Duellists endures as a diverting action potboiler.
Consistently entertaining and eerily beautiful.
A film that satisfies not because it sweeps us off our feet, knocks us into the aisles, provides us with visions of infinity or definitions of God, but because it is precise, intelligent, civilized, and because it never for a moment mistakes its narrative purpose.