7.5 out of 10
Release Date: 25th July 2010
Director: Scott Mann
Cast: Robert Carlyle, Kelly Hu, Ving Rhames, Liam Cunningham, Ian Somerhalder, Sebastian Foucan, Craig Conway, Andy Nyman, Iddo Goldberg, Nick Rowntree with John Lynch and Scott Adkins
Writer: Nick Rowntree
Trailer: THE TOURNAMENT
Here’s that high concept American style movie that young turk directors of the 1990s like Paul Anderson, Stephen Norrington and Vadim Jean were promising us. Only none of them are involved. Instead they gave us Shopping, Death Machine and Beyond Bedlam. These directors certainly opened the door for the wider range of UK movies we are seeing at the moment. If blogs like Britpic existed back in 1992, I would be coming on to this site to post a review once every six weeks instead of everyday. The fact that a slick big budget Hollywood style movie got made on the streets of Middlesborough would have been outlandish but here it is. It even casts one or two descending / ascending Americans like Ving Rhames (PIRAHNA 3D) and Ian Somerhalder (LOST). The fact that it pulls off a decent concept with expensive looking stunts and pyrotechnics and that it’s a UK indie is something else. It has a paltry but decent script, a cracking plot, some amazing action scenes and blinding martial arts from Scott Adkins and Kelly Hu. I was gutted that this didn’t get a wide cinema release. But having thought about it, I think The Tournament came along too late. We’ve had decent UK genre films for years now and finally when the industry delivers on an old promise, we’d all moved on to more sophisticated fare. Dare I say that men’s preferences have shifted towards the hooligan / gangster cycle that dominates. Teens are catered for by a regular diet of horror. Rare reviews of this movie have been fairly uncharitable writing it off as being too straightforward DTV material. They are jaded snobs. There’s so much to recommend and it gets extra points for setting Hard Target in your street.
The plot as it stands has been done a few times, with variations on the theme, but essentially this is Surviving The Game and Hard Target set in Middlesborough. Said town has the largest concentration of CCTV cameras in the world. So its a perfect location for a top secret tournament run by an all powerful, all seeing kabal. Every seven years 30 of the world’s top assassins compete by picking each other off down to the last man standing. The prize is a huge amount of money and the games are financed by high stakes gambling. The townsfolk are oblivious and neither are the police, they become collateral and subsequent deaths are brushed under the carpet. Matters are complicated when one contestant, Bogart (SEBASTIAN FOUCAN – CASINO ROYALE) puts his tracker into an alcoholic’s Priest’s (ROBERT CARLYLE – RAVENOUS) coffee. Unharmed and unaware, he becomes hunted by the remaining assassins. How will he survive? Well that’s predictable too because our heroine, Lai Lai Zhen (KELLY HU – SURF NINJAS) believes his story and takes him under wing, eventhough there can be one survivor of the contest. Amongst those up against her and the Priest are the reigning champion, Harlow (VING RHAMES), American serial killing psycho, Miles Slade (IAN SOMERHALDER) and Petrov; (SCOTT ADKINS – RE-KILL) as a Russian Kickboxing Mercenary.
The film cracks along at a fair pace and other name actors like Craig Conway (FOUR) and John Lynch (CAL) are sent to the gun club in the sky without a fuss. The set pieces are creative and exciting. There is very little slow motion or wire work which marrs this kind of flick, and the casting of genuine physical talents like Foucan, Hu and Adkins give the fight scenes real verve and a compelling reason to cheer our heroine on. The dialogue between the priest and Zhen is economic but who has time to share stories when you have the world’s best killers on your ass. Their dynamic still works. The spice is added when the Priest is added to the list of contestants when the Games Master (LIAM CUNNINGHAM – HARRY BROWN) realises what’s happened. The ending has no easy fix but it’s sensibly played and an action climax on a dual carriage involving high speed lorries and a double decker bus is shot perfectly. It may be small scale compared to spectacles in James Bond or Die Hard but it sure delivers what it can. The makers have clearly kept the lid on their red markers at script stage and resisted putting a line through the action scenes, writing them off as too expensive. They’ve had a bash and won. There’s no time in the plot for anyone to put in career best performances but for what it is The Tournament is great mid-tier action film. It’s a bit old hat but I’m happy that it arrived. My only grumble is a small one and that’s that the great Scott Adkins part was too small. I wanted more fight scenes between him and Kelly Hu. Grrr.
7.5 out of 10 – Slight but right. Simple mid-tier action. Enough originality in the fights and action to cover up for a slender script . Enjoyable, old school action in the Hard Target mold, only set in Middlesborough, like man.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Robert Carlyle: Porno, The Legend of Barney Thompson, 24 (TV), Summer, 28 Weeks Later, Flood, Eragon, The Mighty Celt, Black & White (2002), Once Upon a Time In The Midlands, The 51st State, There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble, The Beach, Angela’s Ashes. James Bond – The World Is Not Enough, Ravenous, Plunkett & Macleane, Face, The Full Monty, Trainspotting, Go Now, Priest (1995), Riff-Raff, Silent Scream
- Kelly Hu: Arrow (TV), Warehouse 13 (TV), The Vampire Diaries (TV), X Men 2, Cradle 2 The Grave, The Scorpion King, Surf Ninjas
- Ving Rhames: Mission Impossible 5, Pirahna 3DD, Pirahna 3D Death Race 3, Mission Impossible 1 to 4, Surrogates, Dawn Of The Dead (2004), Day Of The Dead (2008), I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Idlewild, Dark Blue, Baby Boy, Bringing Out The Dead, Entrapment, Out Of Sight, Bodycount, Con Air, Rosewood, Dangerous Ground, Striptease, Kiss Of Death, Pulp Fiction, The Saint Of Fort Washington, Dave, Blood In – Blood Out, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, The People Under The Stairs, Homicide, Jacob’s Ladder
- Liam Cunningham: Pursuit (2016), Noble, Let Us Prey, Game of Thrones (TV), Dr Who (TV), The Numbers Station, Good Vibrations, Centurion, The Mummy 3, Dog Soldiers, Game Of Thrones (TV), Clash Of The Titans (2010), Harry Brown, The Escapist, The Guard, Safe House, War Horse, Blood – The Last Vampire, Hunger, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, The League Of Gentlemen Movie, Jude, A little Princess, The War Of The Buttons
- Ian Somerhalder: The Anomaly, The Vampire Diaries (TV), Lost (TV), Pulse, The Rules Of Attraction
- Sebastian Foucan: The Antwerp Dolls, James Bond – Casino Royale
- Craig Conway: Blood Shot, Scintilla, Airborne, 7Lives, Four, Devil’s Playground, How To Stop Being a Loser, Doomsday,
- Andy Nyman: Bone In The Throat, Chuggington (voice)(TV), Automata, ABCs of Death 2, Shaun The Sheep Movie (voice), Peaky Blinders (TV), Chuggington (TV) (voice), Kick Ass 2, Black Death, Dead Set (TV), Death At a Funeral (2007), The Brothers Bloom, Severance
- Iddo Goldberg: The Last Passenger, Unmade Beds, Secret Diary Of a Call Girl (TV), Defiance
- John Lynch: Scintilla, Private Peaceful, The Hot Potato, Ghosted, 13HRs, Black Death, Isolation, Sliding Doors, The Secret Of Roan Inish, The Secret Garden (1993), In The Name Of The Father, Angel Baby, Best, This Is The Sea, Some Mother’s Son, Moll Flanders (1996), Nothing Personal, Princess Caraboo, Edward II, Hardware, Cal
- Scott Adkins: Undisputed 4, The Eliminators, Criminal (2016), Grimsby, Jarhead 3, Legendary, Re-Kill, Green Street 3, Universal Soldier 4, Zero Dark Thirty, The Expendables 2, Assassination Games, X Men: Wolverine, Undisputed 3, Undisputed 2, The Bourne Ultimatum, Eastenders (TV), Doctors (TV)