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I came across this online and thought it sounded like an interesting watch, plus I'm a sucker for assassin films. I can't say it was the best film I've seen in a while, but it was entertaining enough.
The Tournament was directed by Scott Mann who has worked on a few things though nothing I recognise in film, so this is probably his first big piece. The premise is as thus : There's a tournament that takes place every 7 years in a randomly selected town between 30 of the most bad add, deadliest assassins. It's a last-man-standing affair and the prize is a sum of $10,000,000 and being crowned no1 assassin. The bloodbath competition is for the benefit of some of the richest people around, presumably because they don't have TVs on which to watch a good action film. This particular Tournament will be in Middlesbrough, the English town, and features a guest of honour in the competition: Joshua Harlow, the previous tournament winner, who is out for revenge against one of the competitors he knows killed his pregnant wife.
The film goes on to show the tournament take place as these assassins are pretty much dumped in the town and have to track fellow competitors down to kill them whilst watching their own backs. Each assassin has a tracker and that shows the group where everybody is, like a radar. Amongst the characters are Lai Lai Zehn, a beautiful Chinese assassin hoping to take the prize to start a fresh life, Miles Slade, a slightly crazed Mexican and Father Joseph MacAvoy, a priest and an alcoholic who seems to have been selected as a player by accident but has no choice but to play along unless he wants to be killed. The question is, who will win and will the poor priest be able to remove his tracker and get out of the deadly game?
This film had a sense of fun to it that took the edge off, making it more enjoyable. For instance, with the introduction of Father MacAvoy, a confused alcoholic that is obviously slightly terrified about what he seems to be mistakenly involved in after unwittingly swallowing the tracker. I thought the location would actually dampen my interest in the film but luckily there wasn't much in the way of dire acting or phony Britishness. It was kept interesting with various locations and scenarios, in addition to an up-beat pace to keep it engaging.
The cast includes Liam Cunningham (Powers), Ving Rhames (Joshua Harlow), Kelly Hu (Lai Lai Zhen), Robert Carlyle (Father MacAvoy) and Ian Somerhalder (Miles Slade) amongst others. All characters were, for the most part, played quite well and were enjoyable if not entirely believable, adding a bit of variety to the flick.
The atmosphere was built reasonably well with the soundtrack but I thought this, and the script at times, could have been a bit tighter and more striking. There was plenty of action and some gore to keep action fans happy, and the pace was quick to keep a sense of suspense and thrill. Then again, the pace needed to be fairly consistent because the tournament only lasts 24hours, after which, if there's no winner, they'll all die anyway. I did like the richos placing bets and watching this for 'entertainment', and it gave a different vantage point to what was happening, such as seeing the viewers and what they're seeing, then seeing it from the assassins' ground.
The Tournament doesn't really add anything particularly new to the action assassin genre (I've created a new category) and it doesn't really do anything that particularly sticks in your mind. I thought about the film and talked about it afterwards, but nothing really struck me as being especially different or noteworthy. The main things I remembered were Robert Carlyle (not necessarily for good reasons because he wasn't that convincing, but he was very noticeable and stood out to me) and Ving Rhames, rather than what happened at the end or any specific action scenes. This may have been in part because I didn't find the premise particularly strong, and I thought there were one or two 'holes' here and there that weakened the sense of believability.
Overall, if you're in the right frame of mind for some silly assassin action then this is a reasonable option, just don't expect anything too special or a particularly intelligent plot.
DVD released 2010, rated Certificate 18
Selling on Amazon for £2.99
Every seven years 30 of the world's most renowned assassins are gathered together to compete against one another to win a prize of $10,000,000, the last man or woman standing after 24 hours wins the money and there are no rules. Kill or be killed is the motto of the game and all the players know exactly what to do... except this time one doesn't, an unwilling late entrant finds himself in the middle of a game he never knew existed. Can he survive? And who will win the Tournament?...
**Why I chose The Tournament**
Lovefilm thought I would like this based on my past rentals with them and as the premise sounded not too dissimilar to films such as 'The Running Man' and 'Battle Royale' which I quite enjoyed I went ahead and added their suggestion to my rental list. I'm really surprised that this has had no other reviews written on it to be honest, it's a relatively new release only coming out on DVD last November and stars some pretty well known faces; Robert Carlyle, Ving Rhames, Kelly Hu and Ian Somerhalder included. Last night I settled down to watch the film, set my expectations to low and have to say pretty much enjoyed what was presented to me despite the fact that there were some massive contrivances and plot holes which would normally dampen my enthusiasm.
I'll get my niggles out of the way first: the premise of the film is just _so_ contrived that it takes a great leap of faith to accept the fact that 30 of the world's most deadliest hit men and women would want to take part in a competition where all but 1 dies. How were they contacted? Surely the very nature of their work means that they live undercover, it's not as if they answered a job ad or had agents to find them work yet The Tournament presents 30 willing and eager assassins all prepared to bump one another off until just 1 survives. The timing of the event raises questions too, if we are to believe that this is something that happens every seven years as claimed then there has to be a massive turnover of killers being actually killed, surely there isn't a limitless supply of these 'specialists' available to pick from yet we are led to believe that this is a regular event and that every time it is held there are people willing to participate. Clearly hit men and women are spectacularly stupid, desperately need the money, and are easily contactable to participate in a game where there is a very real chance that they won't live to see another day. Ho-hum.
**Disengage Brain, Sit Back and Relax**
Niggles aside If you can get your head around the outlandish premise then there's plenty going for the film itself. It is a no-brainer, action packed romp which has plenty of appeal and massive amounts of blood and gore. Much of the attention of the film concentrates on just 5 of the players and it's these who we follow as they hack, shoot and fight their way through their opponents and essentially the whole thing is a live-action version of a shoot-'em up video game. To add a little depth to the characters we are introduced to someone who shouldn't be a player and follow him as he finds himself caught up in events, I liked this twist on the premise and it was a nice parallel-running story to the 'who will win' elements on the film. The fact that he is a flawed character in himself did add some depth to the role and it wasn't too contrived to see him teaming up with one of the other players after they realise that he shouldn't be part of the main game.
From reading my plot summary you would be forgiven for assuming that all of the characters in the game would be unlikeable and only there to inflict as much pain on one another as possible and for many of them that's exactly what they are. To get rid of at least 25 players during the film's running time they have to be presented without any back stories or history and are simply there to add the gore and blood to the film which they do provide in copious amounts. We know who the main 'ones to watch' are and it's these characters that are given the development they need to make us buy into their stories and understand why they are willing to play the game. Of the main five leads and despite their rather dubious career choice there are actually some sympathetic characters amongst them and I thought the film did a very good job in managing to portray them with some heart and compassion, this again gave a nice depth to the film and prevented it from becoming too repetitive and one dimensional.
Similarly the choice of setting for the film was inspired in my opinion, there were no exotic set locations here instead the film is set in Middlesbrough of all places. For me being an English viewer it made a nice change to watch a film set in the UK and whilst the cast were mainly made up of well known American actors it made for quite an experience to see some of the action take place on the A1 motorway along with its recognisable road signs and landmarks. Some of the passers-by's have Geordie accents and the streets around the centre of town are well known but saying that, the film didn't feel 'British' though, the actors were mainly American yet somehow the location seemed to work brilliantly - part of the idea of 'The Tournament' as explained early on in the film is that it can take place anywhere in the world, in any town or city and only the players know what is going on. By choosing not to set the film in Las Vegas, Los Angeles or even Columbia for example was a very clever idea I thought and somehow made the film all the better for me.
Be warned that the film is incredibly gory and was obviously shot with devilish glee, bodies explode, limbs are hacked off and bones are broken and for the most part these are shown brightly lit and in full vivid detail. Like a video game though these are so outlandish and over the top that their impact is lessened after seeing it repeated several times throughout the film although saying that anyone with an aversion to watching extreme violence may be find this very distressing and perhaps should avoid this title in the first place. It easily earns its 18 certificate from the violence and very bad language but the film is what it is and doesn't pretend to be anything other than a fast paced splatter fest and on that level it is an excellent example of a genre film. There are similarities between this and other films which preceded it but given the limited nature of the premise this can't really be avoided, the Japanese film 'Battle Royale' is perhaps the closest 'inspiration' but 'Gamer', 'Wanted' 'Death Race' etc are all examples of the well used theme seen in other releases.
Overall the film actually surprised me and left me feeling very positive about it after watching it last night, I wasn't expecting much I have to admit but for a change Lovefilm actually came up trumps with this suggestion and I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. I can forgive the plot holes and contrivances as the positives far outweigh the negative points for me, the running time at 91 minutes is perfectly pitched, the location excellent and the storyline as believable as it can be given the ridiculous premise of the film. All of the familiar names in the film are watchable and all give fine performances although many could argue that sometimes the acting is a little over-done over zealous, all in all though 'The Tournament' should just be allowed to engage you for an hour and half of thrilling action set-pieces, some nice tension building sequences complete with massive amounts of blood and gore.
To conclude then, If my review has tempted you to check it out for yourself then the film can be purchased online from amazon for a little under £7.00 or is available to rent from Lovefilm and other online DVD rental companies. For the price it is available to buy for I would recommend its purchase and although I am in no rush to watch the film again I would buy it in the future to add to my collection. I can't award a perfect rating as it's not quite a five star film although I did thoroughly enjoy it and would certainly recommend it to anyone else, 4 stars therefore seems fair to me for all the reasons mentioned in this review.
Thanks for reading, please note that this review also appears on ciao under my username.