The Tournament comes out of the gates guns blazing/blood splattering and for 90 minutes keeps that momentum going. It is one of those rare straight-to-DVD action films that avoids looking super low budget and lame, features a cast of pretty well-known actors and a contains a heaping helping of blood, bullets, as well as some awesome stunts. But is there some higher meaning to the film or any redeeming qualities outside of mindless violence?
Find out in my Blu-ray review, after the jump.
The Tournament has a premise we’ve all heard before in some form. Every seven years, thirty of the world’s best assassins arrive in an undisclosed city and fight to the death to win the title of “Worlds Greatest Assassin,” while rich a-holes bet on them in a secret room as the mayhem is broadcast via closed-circuit cameras. Each assassin has a tracking device sewn into their bodies so they can tell where each other are, these tracking devices also double as a detonator (in case there is more than one assassin standing at the end of the 24-hour tournament).
If it sounds like a cocktail of Battle Royale mixed with Death Race and a dash of Smokin’ Aces, that’s exactly what the movie feels like. And you know what? That’s exactly why I had a blast watching it!
The plot centers on Father MacAvoy (Robert Carlyle) who has unwittingly joined the tournament after accidentally swallowing another assassin’s discarded GPS tracker and Lai Lai Zhen (Kelly Hu) who is trying to win so she can finally escape this life. Lai Lai ends up protecting Father MacAvoy since he is an innocent bystander, all the while Joshua Harlow (Ving Rhames) last tournament’s winner, is on a vengeance kick trying to find out who killed his pregnant wife.
Their paths eventually cross in quite a moral quandary… but I don’t want to spoil anything.
Lai Lai and Father MacAvoy are trying to get as far out of the city as possible, hoping the others will kill each other off, while Joshua goes on a suicide mission mowing down the 27 other assassins in his way. One of the best scenes is when 9 assassins are all in the same strip club and a chaotic blood bath ensues. The movie is gunfight after gunfight, each one building on the last to a great chase scene in the end with a double-decker bus and a fuel-hauling semi truck.
There isn’t much in the way of actual plot. The filmmakers keep it all pretty lean so as to not get in the way of the action. This is the kind of film where you get what you paid for. You want to see a non-stop, mindless action film with some colorful, if not completely fleshed-out, characters? Then this is the right film. It won’t win any awards and it doesn’t have anything in it that stands out as incredibly memorable, but it delivers a fun and fast-paced ride. The stunt work with Sebastien Foucan is amazing (he’s the same guy that does all the crazy building jumping in Casino Royale). Kelly Hu kicks serious ass and looks hot doing it. Ving Rhames is a great avenging angel of darkness, and Robert Carlyle plays the wimpy priest with the same spinelessness as his character pre-zombified in 28 Weeks Later.
The special effects don’t feel low-budget and the action scenes are well shot as you can actually see what’s going on in the fight scenes. This trait could be attributed to the fact that they have such great martial artists doing the stunt-work, but either way, I was very happy about that. I am sick of watching action movies and getting a headache because I can’t see what the hell is going on. This film lets you clearly see the kicks, punches, bullet wounds, and explosions. And this is one of the few action movies made recently to use practical blood effects and not CGI blood.
Nothing takes me out of a gunfight more than seeing crappy computer generated blood spray out of a character, except if they are using shaky camera work on top of that. Squibs have been used for 40 years now and they work just fine, why make your scenes look worse and less effective by over-using CGI? Thankfully, The Tournament does not do that. They use “real” blood and LOTS of it. This is one of the most violent action movies I’ve seen in a long time. Blood and body parts flying everywhere, it revels in its gratuitousness and action fans will really dig this, especially when a certain character’s GPS tracker detonates inside him…
Outside of its complete lack of Special Features, I don’t really have anything bad to say about this film. It’s not amazing by any means, but it delivers fully what I had hoped and keeps the action coming. Too often action films build to one big action scene in the end and spend the rest of the film talking about what’s going to happen or having a few minor action scenes scattered throughout, but this film is one big ass action scene after another. I was pleasantly surprised and kind of shocked by the amount of gore too. This film knows exactly what it is and has a blast because of it. If you’re an action film fan and don’t mind a little mental break, I would highly recommend this mindless shooter. But be warned, it is mindless.