The Tournament (2009)

2014 #46
Scott Mann | 95 mins | Blu-ray | 1.85:1 | UK & USA / English | 18 / R

The TournamentThe Tournament is the kind of film where its relative quality is entirely dependent on what you want from a movie. Is it original? Not terribly. Is it clever? Not really. Is it action-packed and kinda fun? Yessir. If you just want to shift your brain into neutral and watch people punch, kick, shoot, stab, chase, and generally fight each other in a slickly-produced fashion, with a solid enough plot that (depending how brain-neutral you’ve gone) might offer an occasional twist… well, you’ve come to the right place.

The plot sees a bunch of the world’s greatest assassins lured to compete in a once-every-seven-years competition to find who’s the best — which, naturally, involves trying to kill each other. Meanwhile, a bunch of shady rich folk gamble on the outcome alongside the tournament’s organiser (Liam Cunningham). Particular interest is added because the last tournament’s winner (Ving Rhames) has been lured back for vengeance against whoever murdered his wife, while another canny competitor manages to shift his tracking device into an unsuspecting vicar (Robert Carlyle). Hilarity ensues! Oh, no, wait — carnage. Carnage ensues.

Also, it’s set in Middlesborough. No, really. You don’t expect a big explosive action movie to be set in Middlesborough, do you? Yet it somehow works. Or, rather, it doesn’t matter. Makes a change from somewhere obvious, at least, and the plain urbanity lends itself well to a few set pieces. It was shot in both the UK and Bulgaria, which probably explains why much of the city stuff looks British, but some (including a couple of churches) has a distinctly foreign feel.

explosive chase involving a double-decker busThe action is the draw, of course, and fortunately the film delivers in spades. The best stuff involves Sebastien Foucan, who you may remember as Bond’s bomb-maker target in Casino Royale’s post-titles sequence; or the 2012 season of Dancing on Ice, if you’re more sequin-inclined. He’s one of the founders of Parkour, and brings all those skills to bear in a duel with a car, amongst other sequences. If you like a well-choreographed bit of action filmmaking then The Tournament’s worth it for that bit alone. The climax, an explosive chase involving a double-decker bus and a motorway, is another highlight.

The Tournament sets out to provide action thrills, and those it delivers better than some more well-known examples of the genre. If it isn’t all that intelligent or original then that barely matters — it could be dumber and more derivative; again, there are worse instances among better-known movies. My score errs on the generous, then, but some overlooked films need the encouragement.

4 out of 5