K-Drama Review: Duel – A Heart-Racing Pursuit To Claim A Death Defying Medicine
“Duel” delivers a mind-bending chase thriller with unwavering excitement and grit.
Theme: Crime, Sci-Fi, Drama, Detective
Length: 16 Episodes
Broadcast Period: 03 June 2017 – 23 July 2017
Trust OCN in conceiving crime stories that disregard the conventional cop drama approach by using conflicts that will make the most out of viewers’ time. Duel navigated a heightened quest of heroes who blindly trusted each other to achieve their personal goals of saving a loved one and remembering lost memories.
Duel caught me off guard because I thought it will be a straight cop and crime drama. So, I was not prepared when it broke my heart into pieces with its main conflict of a father seeking the abductor of his sick daughter who happens to be a human clone supported by a big conglomerate company. Duel will not sink in right away to engage you, but once you patiently cross the 6th episode, you will forget what your current real-life problems are, and would just want to reunite the hero and his beloved child.
Insanely Dark But Engaging Plot
If told in scientific form, the detective’s daughter Soo Yeon, is like the sun in the solar system. Moving around her are the heroes and villains. The mystery solving plot unravels the details of the story that are traced to a prohibited medical research of 24 years about human cloning and a sort of cure-for-all vaccine. The story progresses as the serial killings of an evil clone happen. The movements of the plot are dependent on the quest to save the young girl until the discovery of the holy-grail-human-cure. It notches a more ardent contention for the dying people who need her to survive. The ambitious medical plot about stem cell therapy and human clones seem awkward to a crime drama, but the moment your attention is settled to the story, your brain will become busy processing the what-ifs and OMG’s of the story.
Staunchly Intense Tone
The frantic pace and overwhelming tone will exhaust you every episode, but you end up craving for more. I tend to avoid problem-laden stories, but Duel breaks the exception easily as it made me see the importance of reaching the end of the tunnel for everyone in the story. I was so drawn in all the characters that the fight scenes full of blood spatters, broken bones and ripped flesh did not make me flinch as the episodes go on. In the waning moments when the coveted vaccine has been found, I really had hair-tugging moments on why the story always chooses the complicated road versus the easy one, but then the strength of the story is how the characters have good and evil resonance of their own that justify their growth in the story to the point of ludacris and selflessness.
Superb Male Cast Portrayal
Given that the action-packed drama will cater more to the male audience, I really enjoyed the male dominated cast because even with the heart-wrenching moments, the tear-inducing scenes are kept nicely at a bearable level. It made me cry without tears because of the detective’s love for his daughter, as well as the righteous clone’s fears of not being able to belong. Yang Se Jong is a revelation. For a barely new actor, he is sensitive to his shifting roles. I can only imagine the focus he had to work on in giving two facets of distinct characters. Jung Jae Young showcased his seasoned acting to a point where I want to beg the writer to stop hurting him. I won’t say that the female cast are lousy in the story. They supported well, but it’s the boys that really held the story in place.
Impeccable Finish Line Race
Duel gives a satisfying closure after wrapping neatly all the conflicts presented in the story. After the last episode, I heaved a sigh of content because it made me feel like I was one of their team members in that neverending pursuit to destroy the evil villains. The heroes and villains in equilibrium give a gripping pendulum sways as the characters push the momentum of the narrative. I got what I never asked for in Duel, and that really made me happy.
Fight Scene Gaps
While chasing the fugutives, the prosecutor’s team with the police reinforcement have tracked them on the crime scenes, but they are always a step behind in the entrapment operations. The execution of getting through the sneaky villain and the people behind him are always failing. My patience was tested on the warehouse hostage exchange scene because I can’t believe they were outwitted again. I know that it’s possibly because the story was just hitting halfway and I’m exhausted as they really live up to the “chase thriller drama” tag, but come on, it was not logically possible for the villains to slip through a band of detectives. There are evident gaps in the execution of the fight scenes. Duel is bloody and brutal in the brawl scenes, but the characters seem to be invincible with their ability to regain their strength for almost every episode of dark and twisted exchange of nasty squabble. Like they can take a 2 hour nap and will be back in full health after altercations like that of MMA bouts. That, for me is unbelievable.
Jung Jae Young plays Detective Jang Deuk Cheon who is saddled with financial constraints due to his daughter’s leukemia. Left with no choice when his daughter, Soo Yeon, is hospitalized, he agrees with Prosecutor Choi Jo Hye (Kim Jung Eun) to close a recent investigation so they can get the promised money he can use for Soo Yeon’s urgent expensive stem cell therapy.
After Soo Yeon’s emergency treatment they head home but the driver of the ambulance manages to subdue Detective Jang and takes off with the patient. Ransom money is demanded by the culprit to which the detective hysterically obliges, but the kidnapper flees with her daughter after learning the money is fake.
Enter the supposed kidnapper, a man who has no recollection of his memory which the detective believes owing to how he remembers the evil eyes of the man who took his daughter. He helps him escape the impending prison time as he relies on his memory to track down his daughter. The amnesiac man encounters the mysterious man, Lee Sung Hoon, who shares the same face, DNA, and fingerprints as what he have. He also learns his name as Lee Sung Joon.
Sung Hoon mercilessly goes on a murder rampage as his evil deeds are blamed on Sung Joon. In their confrontation at an illegal dog-fight den, the latter meets a journalist who shares a connection from the past that Sung Joon is trying to remember.
In 1993, a doctor named Lee Yung Sup who shares the same face as Sung Hoon and Sung Joon, is engaged in an illegal stem cell research. The unlawful experiment backfired on him when the patients on trial escaped and took his organs for donation. The situation got complicated because he has injected the stem cells on his body not knowing that he will be killed the same day. That same stem cell research is given to the detective’s daughter who was kidnapped by one of the clones made from the dead Lee Yung Sup. Sung Joon regains his memory when they locate his friend and remembers his identity as a clone, like Sung Hoon, of the dead doctor Lee Yung Sup.
It turns out that the real vaccine was not injected by the dead doctor to his body, but was in fact given to his dying daughter who was later adopted by a nurse he trusted. The daughter turns out to be present day Mi Rae who has been helping Sung Joon and Detective Jang. Sung Joon, who remembers glimpses of Doctor Lee’s memories, uses his clone’s identity for a bargaining ticket to save Soo Yeon. He baits the daughter of Sanyoung Pharmaceutical Company’s chairman with his recent memory recovery about where the real vaccine is. He successfully rescues Soo Yeon with the help of the police team as Prosecutor Choi demands the Chief Prosecutor to have Detective Jang be reinstated.
Prosecutor Choi who has connected the Chief Prosecutor’s involvement to Sanyoung devises a way to trap the evil business and evil boss. Sung Joon is reunited with Doctor Han Yu Ra who raised him and Sung Hoon when they were young. But Sung Hoon succumbs to the Chairman’s evil ploy to raise doubts by blaming Doctor Han’s inability to protect him in all those experiments done to him in the past 12 years. Sung Hoon calls the Doctor for a meet up, but accidentally eavesdrops on Mi Rae’s role as a carrier of the vaccine when Detective Jang consults the doctor about the options for his dying daughter who responded to the stem cell treatment, but has been rapidly developing tumors in the body. Sung Hoon directs the doctor to another place to get through to Mi Rae, but Detective Jang quickly stops him from leaving in the basement parking. Sung Hoon confronts his doctor-mom about what Chairman San Young revealed. In his rage he triggers the gun at Sung Joon but the doctor takes the bullet for him. The doctor ill-fatedly dies, just as Soo Yeon hits a critical condition. The evil chairman orders to kidnap Mi Rae and the police team traces her to a suburb laboratory owned by the pharmaceutical company. Detective Jang and Sung Joon dress up in doctor’s robes to infiltrate the place. They get through the main door but outnumbered by the security officers of the building, Detective Jang sacrifices his body for Mi Rae and Sung Joon so they can drive away from the place. Mi Rae donates her bone marrow as soon as she reaches the hospital, but the villain intercepts it by threatening Soo Yeon’s doctor.
Mi Rae’s bone marrow tug-of-war ensues as Sung Joon retrieves the box from the chairman’s minion. Sung Hoon heads to his evil clone’s lair to get the bone marrow so they engage in a fight where he has no choice but to drug him to unconsciousness. The chairman’s bullies arrive in the house so Sung Hoon pretends to be his clone and claims that he injected the bone marrow to himself already. He is brought to the facility to get the bone marrow just as Sung Joon wakes up and realizes what happened.
Sung Joon bravely goes to the Chairman to demand the release of Sung Hoon. Knowing how he will go sneaky with his words, he visits the recovering Detective Jang to present his Sung Hoon rescue plan. He also gives Mi Rae the bone marrow box to carry on with Soo Yeon’s procedure before heading to a final showdown with the villain. Pretending that he is subdued, he releases himself with a scalpel to slash the chairman’s neck as bullets rain on his body.
A year later, Soo Yeon with her now family of five visits Sung Joon in his resting place.
Duel is the second sci-fi drama that will enter my personal favorite list for 2017. I’m also surprised how it consumed me, and how I stayed patient in reaching the culmination of the story. Probably it is because Duel made me feel like I am part of the team and we are all in that moment together. *wink
If by any chance you want a real drama with pounces of action elements and inventive sci-fi plot, then by all means consider this excitingly crafted drama. Duel secures important messages about how human greed is neverending. It is a disease that will corrupt someone to the highest level of selfishness. The drama also gives a lasting impression on the kindness that makes a person. It depicts a human clone with a heart bigger than what a real person could ever have. There are lessons on love, friendship and family that are neatly interjected in the story. Yes, it is amazing how they were able to blend that given the rip-roaring battle scenes. Duel is served best on a bingewatch for you to feel the rush of the thrilling chase of the story.
Overall Rating: 9/10
Rewatch Value: 8/10
Plus Factors: Intense Plot, Superb Cast
Oh No Moments: Not Child Friendly, Caters to a Specific Audience
Related Dramas: Circle
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