The Duelist is a very rare bird for a Russian movie. It was commercially released in the US by Sony Pictures. Also, The Duelist is only the third Russian film which was shot in IMAX format.
The producer of The Duelist, Alexander Rodnyansky, was also a producer of the Russian Golden Globe winner in 2015, Leviathan. His credentials both as a producer of international blockbusters like Stalingrad and art-house fare and festival darlings like Leviathan are evident in his new endeavor. The Duelist was directed by Russian master of art-house film Alexei Mizgirev and one can feel that this mixture works well for the lavish period in which the The Duelist is set.
Popular Russian actor Pyotr Fyodorov (Stalingrad), who has the darkness and brooding required by the story, plays Yakovlev, a disgraced and exiled officer of the 19-th century Russian Imperial army who returns to the capital Saint Petersburg from exile (the reason is explained later in the film) and becomes a duelist-for-hire for the noblemen who themselves are unable or unwilling to face the gun at the duel. Duels were illegal by tsarist law. As a former military sharpshooter Yakovlev is not only good at killing opposite party in duels, he is also handsomely paid for his services.
Yakovlev has returned from exile in the Russian Far East where he faced the cruel local tribesmen. His encompassing puropose is to restore the honor of his noble name. But unknowingly he becomes entangled in the web of machinations by the mysterious and evil Count Beklemishev (Vladimir Mashkov, who plaid a main character in the Golden Globe nominated The Edge). The story gets an unexpected twist when Yakovlev learns that all the noblemen he killed had some ties to Beklemishev. Who has also laid his evil eyes on the beautiful princess Marfa Tuchkova (Yuliya Khlynina) who – surprise, surprise! – is a love interest of Yakovlev.
The producer Alexander Rodniansky says about the film: “The Duelist is a film about honor in its most intense and brutal sense. Honor, not for a person belonging to a particular country or culture, but honor as a human being”.