The Duelist (2016)


The Duelist (Russian: Дуэлянт or Duelyant) is a 2016 Russian action adventure thriller drama film directed by Aleksey Mizgirev.

In the times of Imperial Russia, a former military man of honour makes his own way in life participating in the deadly fights for other people as professional duellist.


Set in Saint Petersburg in 1860, the story revolves around retired officer Yakovlev. A deadly shot, Yakovlev is effectively a kind of mercenary in that he is available for hire through his associate Baron Staroe to stand in for others in formal duels.

Much later in the film, flashbacks reveal that years ago an Aleut shaman has predicted he would never die, and so far that seems about right as Yakovlev wins duel after duel, wounding and more often killing noble opponents. Although duels of honour are technically illegal in Russia at the time, most people turn a blind eye to the law. The code of practice is not written down anywhere, and yet everyone knows the rules and rituals, while many participants see it as an almost mystical rite. To take part in a duel is to accept that one’s fate is ultimately in the hands of God, hence the practice of Russian roulette.

Eventually, it turns out that all of Yakovlev’s recent duels were secretly arranged by Count Beklemishev. He is a shadowy puppet master with a grudge and designs on Princess Martha Tuchkova whose brother (Prince Tuchkov) Yakovlev is scheduled to duel with next. When attraction stirs between him and the pretty blond princess, problems arise, especially since, as the flashbacks reveal, Yakovlev has an agenda of his own.


  • Pyotr Fyodorov as Yakovlev/Kolyshev.
    • Aleksandr Yatsenko as Yakovlev Jr.
  • Vladimir Mashkov as Graf Beklemishev.
  • Yulia Khlynina as Martha Tuchkova.
  • Pavel Tabakov as Prince Tuchkov.
  • Franziska Petri as grand duchess Alexandra.
  • Sergei Garmash as Vasily Semyonov, one-handed.
  • Yuri Kolokolnikov as Prince Basargin.
  • Yury Kuznetsov as Kolychev family servant.
  • Dmitriy Kulichkov as captain Chichagov.
  • Pavel Kuzmin as captain Liprandi.
  • Dmitriy Lysenkov as senate official.
  • Anatoly Kondyubov as Arndt doctor.
  • Anton Kuznetsov as merchant-gunsmith.
  • Dmitry Zhuravlyov as lieutenant colonel.
  • Nikita Kukushkin as young non-commissioned officer.
  • Aleksandr Aravushkin as commandant of the fortress.
  • Pierre Bourel as Prince Rayn.
  • Sergey Godin as second of Basargin.
  • Igor Khripunov as second of Prince Rein.
  • Sergey Trebesov as escort soldier.
  • Aleksandr Mizev as officer jailer.
  • Aleksandra Serebryakova as noblewoman.
  • Martin Wuttke as German baron.


The screening was part of the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival official programme.

The film was number-one on its opening weekend at the Russian box office, with US$2.4 million.


  • The movie goes back to the novels of City mysteries, popular in the middle of the 19th century (the most famous example – Les Vrais Mystères de Paris (1844) by Eugène François Vidocq).
    • In preparation for filming, Alex Mizgirev reviewed the movie The Duellists directed by Ridley Scott (1977) and loosely based on the novel by Joseph Conrad’s Duel, which, in turn, was inspired by Pushkin’s The Shot.
  • Every firearm in the film was functional, with a handful being genuine, 150-year-old antiques used in actual duels.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Aleksey Mizgiryov.
  • Producer(s):
    • Gleb Fetisov … executive producer.
    • Sergey Melkumov … producer.
    • Alexander Rodnyansky … producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Aleksey Mizgiryov.
  • Music:
    • Igor Vdovin.
  • Cinematography:
    • Maksin Osadchiy-Korytkovskiy.
  • Editor(s):
  • Production:
    • Fetisoff Illusion.
    • Columbia Pictures.
    • Non-Stop Productions.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Columbia Pictures (2016) (USA) (theatrical) (subtitled).
    • Sony Pictures Releasing (2016) (USA) (theatrical).
    • KinoVista (2017) (France) (all media).
    • Koch Media (2017) (Germany) (Blu-ray).
    • Koch Media (2017) (Germany) (DVD).
  • Release Date: 09 September 2016 (Toronto International Film Festival) and 29 September 2016 (Russia).
  • Running Time: 109 minutes.
  • Rating: R.
  • Country: Russia.
  • Language: Russian.

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