Monday, 7 June 2010
THE TOURNAMENT (2009)
Directed by: Scott Mann
Written by: Gary Young, Jonathon Frank, Nick Rowntree
Starring: Kelly Hu, Robert Carlyle, Ving Rhames, Ian Somerhalder, Sebastian Foucan, Liam Cunningham & Scott Adkins
Full blooded, pumped up, straight laced action doesn’t come more violent, in your face and gloriously over-the-top entertaining than it does in The Tournament. If you are sick of blockbusters that don’t deliver, tired of CGI hokiness and bored of shaky cam, epileptic edited action scenes, then The Tournament may just be what you are looking for. Wild, ultra violent, often breathlessly staged and set-piece heavy, this is an action soaked delight.
Every seven years a group of elite assassins are drafted into a competition to compete against one another for a large cash prize and the title of the world’s top killer. Held in a different city each year and monitored over the town’s CCTV camera system while rich fat cats watch and place bets, the killers use all their skills and resources to slay one another and be the last assassin standing. This year's choice of venue, err, Middlesbrough! Yep, that sprawling metropolis in England. Well, it makes a change from New York or LA and it’s actually Bulgaria doubling for Middlesbrough most of the time. So with its unique setting, slick visuals and blood soaked action, The Tournament takes little time to get going and once it does its assassin vs. assassin a go-go.
This is set-piece heavy action cinema, the pace always on the go as the assassins attempt to eradicate one another over the course of 24 hours. Characters are defined enough for this type of action film, several characters having ulterior motives for competing and Robert Carlyle’s alcoholic priest getting caught up in the action mistakenly meaning there is a little character to go along with all the assassin killing. The cast is fleshed out with a nice mix of character actors and action stars, all embracing the outlandish premise and seemingly having a hoot as the mayhem erupts around them. Kelly Hu, Ving Rhames, Robert Carlyle and Liam Cunningham bring a bit more edge to proceedings while Lost’s Ian Somerhalder is absolutely demented as a blood thirsty, redneck killer. Action ace Scott Adkins also pops up but it’s more of a glorified cameo than a starring role but he does get to take part in one wicked fight scene.
This brings us to the action: glorious, brutally staged action sequences put together by JJ (Undisputed 2) Perry and a host of stunt professionals. Working with a modest budget and mercifully forgoing CGI tricks, the action in The Tournament is back-to-basics stunt and fight work that recalls the glory days of the 80s. Featuring everything from gunplay, to hand-to-hand combat, to vehicular mayhem and even free running, The Tournament pushes its action to the max, delivering momentum and kinetic set-pieces by the bucket load. As mentioned Adkins gets a wickedly choreographed fight in a church facing off against Kelly Hu; there’s an excellent free running sequence courtesy of parkour expert Sebastian Foucon that also works in a speeding police car and lots of gunplay; an insane shootout in a strip club and a barnstorming climactic chase involving a tanker and a double-decker bus. While a couple of scenes are a little rough around the edges, The Tournament’s action sequences are in general thrillingly put together, overcoming what must have been a tight budget and absolutely delivering on the concept of a group of assassins facing off against one another.
Sometimes it’s reassuring, for an action fan at least, to see a film that sticks to its guns and delivers full throttle action without much complication. The Tournament does just this but is also bolstered by a fine cast and some talented filmmakers delivering a slick action ride. It may push the barriers of taste on a few occasions and Adkins is dispatched way too early on but The Tournament is nevertheless a fine piece of action entertainment and a right bloody hoot.