The Tournament (2009): Breakdown by Rantbo
Wanna play a game? “30 contestants—24 hours—1 rule—kill or die. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets—the Tournament has begun.”
In the tradition of ASSASSINS, BATTLE ROYALE and THE RUNNING MAN, comes THE TOURNAMENT. Essentially, an unauthorized remake of the 1997 action/thriller MEAN GUNS, the plot is very simply Killers v. Killers for the grand prize of a shit load of money. At least—I think that’s what the winner receives—it’s never really made too clear as the reasons for the various main character’s participation is anything but cash. One wants redemption, one wants revenge, one just wants out, and another just gets a hard-on being a batshit insane mass-murderer.
While MEAN GUNS had the ever awesome Christopher Lambert and the ever entertaining Ice T, THE TOURNAMENT delivers as much, if not more, with a cavalcade of B-Listers: Ving Rhames, Kelly Hu, Robert Carlyle, Ian Somerhalder, that parkour guy from CASINO ROYALE and even (most importantly) up and coming DTV Action Icon, Scott Adkins. Or as I like to call him, The Reason I Watched This Movie. So, lets talk about him for a minute…
The always (at least so far) impressive Adkins plays a Russian Hitman named Yuri Petrov. A regrettably small role. Thankfully though, Adkins cleared enough time on his schedule to provide a kick-ass fight sequence and successfully make this movie at least 3 times cooler by gracing it with his badassness. More on this later.
As for the rest of the cast, they are certainly a grab-bag of interesting choices. It’s always nice to see the lovely visage (amongst other things) of the fabulous Kelly Hu (THE SCORPION KING), made all the better as she is one of the killers and not just some background T&A. Carlyle performs his role of a catholic priest well, despite the fact that I hated his character. Rhames somehow manages to pull off still being a badass, even when blubbering like a rape victim. And Sebastien Foucan (the parkour guy) even managed to score a couple lines of dialogue to flesh out his impressive acrobatic feats. Which leaves Somerhalder. The one guy who just didn’t do anything for me. His character, Miles Slade, is a raving, unhinged psychopath and I found the role to be too over-the-top for Somerhalder to believably pull off. Had he played a quiet, reserved sociopath, I think I would have bought it AND paid for the extra insurance. But, as is, he just made me cringe and not for the intended reasons. But it wasn’t distracting enough to really hurt my opinion of the film as a whole.
Overall though, this film is top-fuckin’-notch. The story, however lifted, is still fresh and entertaining. The violence is unapologetic and gratuitous and the seemingly sole theatrical inhibitor, the cast, for the most part delivers all I could have hoped for. It’s films like this one, BLOOD & BONE and COMMAND PERFORMANCE that are quickly turning the tide of great action to the home front venue. And while I do love attending the cinema, my pocket book ain’t complainin’. Definitely worth watching, if not just straight up buying, THE TOURNAMENT is guaranteed Grade-A entertainment and one of the years best action flicks, hands down. Check it out.
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Kelly Hu is Lai Lai Zhen
“Abandoned at birth, left for dead. At seventeen she was killing for the Triads and has grown up to become the number one hitter in the eastern market for the past 3 years—a snip at 10-To-1.”
Hu gets a shot at her first lead role (at least that I’ve seen), and as it turns out, it’s a pretty good one. Not to say that she isn’t just a pretty face attached to an archetype, that’s exactly what she is, but unlike some, she also manages to pull off playing a bad-ass mama-jamma. On top of going toe-to-toe with Scott Adkins (a feat Michael Jai White barely survived), she also plays the protective “mother” to the helpless Father Joe, fights and defeats no less than three men twice her size and has a dark past of nefarious deeds that can’t be chalked up to vigilantism or anti-heroics by any stretch of the imagination (except for with sick fucks like me that smile when innocent pregnant women are blown away on film). And yet I think even well adjusted viewers will still get behind Lai Lai. Hu plays the role of wanting, needing and perhaps deserving redemption very well. And again, looks fucking good doing it.
Robert Carlyle is Father Joseph Macavoy
“Wrong day to be a good samaritan.”
Entered into the tourney against his knowledge by a devious French man, the Padre becomes the film’s resident puss. To be fair, the guy is a drunk, not a killer. But on-top of the expected level of self-pity for the situation, Macavoy compounds it with drunken pissing and moaning. Needless to say, a badass this guy is not. But annoying and unnecessary? A-#1! Personifying Lai Lai’s redemption, his character was anything but subtle. If it’s one thing this movie REALLY didn’t need was a ham-fisted, whiney, hypocritical religious figure. But, whatareyagonnado, eh? He’s attached to Zhen’s hip for the whole ride. Just gotta deal, it’s worth it.
And the other heavy hitters…
Sebastien Foucan is Anton Bogart
“An outstanding athlete, he lives for the thrill of the hunt. Silent, stealthy, smart—a lethal option at 9-To-1.”
Scott Adkins is Yuri Petrov, Russian Special Forces
“An incredible all-rounder armed to the teeth. Fists, feet, bullets, bombs—utterly merciless, he has it all.” Odds, 12-To-1.
Ian Somerhalder is Miles Slade, The Crazy Texan Kid
“An outside bet, but he’s mad enough to rise the ranks. Reckless, ruthless, wild, but guaranteed great entertainment. This is one guy who truly loves his job.” Odds, 25-To-1.
Ving Rhames is Joshua Harlow
“And, if you thought it couldn’t get any better—we have a dramatic late entrant—a returning champion who I’m sure will add something very personal to the proceedings. Seven years ago Joshua Harlow took the Tournament by storm and retired as a champion. But this year he’s back. For one reason and one reason only—revenge. Joshua’s wife was brutally murdered in their Miami home four months ago, and the person who killed her is one of this year’s players! Joshua Harlow is our favorite at 2-To-1.”
[THE BODY COUNT: APPROX. 65]
Guns, knives, vehicles, garrote wire, grenades, make-shift flame-throwers, surgically implanted explosives, those bolt-shooting things they use to kill cattle—this film’s got ’em all and boy do they get used. Here’s a tally:
Lai Lai: 4
Harlow: 14 (2 more by proxy)
Slade: 12 + 1 Dog
Random Deaths: 20ish
The 29 Losers And Who/What Took Them Out
Sniper Chick: 1
Bus Driver: 1
Rando In The Titty-Bar: 1
Montague Of Random Death: 8
And A Internal Bomb: 1
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING & DEATH]
Lai Lai vs. The Russian
In a church no less! This scene is kind of like a slightly more believable, though equally as bad-ass, live-action version of the Tifa v. Loz fight in FINAL FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILDREN. With more blood and grenades. So, what’s not to like? Petrov bursts in the window and hits the ground running with a stunning display of acrobatics, whilst also chucking grenades about like a twelve year-old Halo enthusiast. Lai keeps them at bay by shooting them (quite impressively) out of her radius, so the fight moves on to be decided by fisticuffs. Petrov is clearly the more powerful and skilled of the two, but Lai Lai is a scrapper and knows how to use her environment to even the odds. So overall, it’s a fucking good battle.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Slade: “Look at what I did to that guy! What da fuck was I thinkin’!?”
Slade has some issues.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
“Fuck me sideways, I would LOVE to have a piece of that pie!”
If it’s one thing this movie seems to be in support of, it’s the idea that assassins aren’t these honor bound, “No women, no kids” killers with hearts of gold that Hollywood would have you believe. Nope, they are murdering scum that live off the suffering of others. Man, I’d love to be a hitman… Anyways, with women officially off the “Do Not Kill” list, the film features some doozys in true brutal equality,
“I just want you to know, after I kill you—I’m gonna FUCK you!”
Also, there’s this little action sequence inside a Nuddie Bar…
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
Angel’s House Of Tits And Death
“Jesus Fucking Christ, that isn’t a cluster, that’s a war zone!”
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a bloodbath about to take place.”
This seems to be a trend in recent action flicks—THE BUTCHER, CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE, and I must say, it gets my stamp of approval. Any situation that lends itself to shotguns, tits and shotgunned tits, is my kind of action sequence. Slade himself wastes 11 people. Including 3 strippers, for no reason other than that he’s off-balance.
It’s a skinny-dipping bloodbath of gratuitous nudity and violence and I loved every second of it.
As for the one-liner, it goes to my man Adkins…
“In the name of da fathur, da son aund da holy ghost—good bye.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Don’t kill innocent pregnant women if there is a chance you might later regret it. That shit can eat at you, or should I say—Hu? Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
[THE CHECKLIST: 18 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[X] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
The Tournament (2009) © Entertainment Film Distributors and The Weinstein Company