27 October 2009 | bobslider
"The Tournament" - a decently cool idea staggers, crawls, then dies.
The Tournament - a deadly game played out every 7 years, where the world's richest people put 30 of the world's deadliest assassins in an out of the way town, and bet on who will be the last man (or woman) standing. The surprise (aha( is that through a plot twist, a drunken priest played by Robert Carlyle becomes an unwilling participant. Ving Rhames, Kelly Hu and that dueshbag from LOST round out the character actors.
A movie like this, for me, needs two things - badass characters - and I mean MAKE THEM BADASS! Have a guy who uses snakes as weapons, and has an eyepatch, and uses a boomerang! Have a girl who has poisons and throwing stars, and who killed her whole family when she was 3 years old - I want some bloody history goddammit. Have assassins who get their arms pulled off and still keep killing. What we get here is a stupid video game sequence for each of the top 5 assassins, THE TEXAN, THE FRENCHMAN, THE Asian CHICK, etc, kicking and punching a bit before freezing for the camera. This is not the way to go. Show them in their environment. SHOW us, don't just tell us how badass they are.
The movie has a stupid subplot where Ving Rhames's wife has been killed, and hes there for revenge, blah blah blah, these movies tend to get all cocked up when they try to make an emotional plot work, and this one is no exception. I feel like having this tournament, plus a bystander who's a priest who then becomes one of the players is more than enough plot for an action movie, the rest can be just watching the carnage unfold, and if the characters are interesting, and the action scenes are creative, that's all it really needs. This movie tries to straddle both, and ends up having mediocre characters having mediocre fight scenes (the two fight scenes with the FRENCHMAN were the exceptions, mostly because I'm a sucker for that parkour jumping around stuff).
One last thing - movies like this need to understand the idea of contrasting elements. Contrast these deadly killers against a very normal town! Show them getting coffee at starbucks, fighting in a wal-mart, contrast crazy with normal. Instead the towns people seem to barely exist, the cops are nowhere, you never get that moment where a kid looks at a bleeding murderer from behind a box of paper towels, and the killer goes "hey there buddy" before blowing away a crazy monkey fighter who leaps over the tootsie roll display. This place is the town equivalent of an empty warehouse.
People are comparing it to death race, but I actually liked that better, because it embraced it's stupidity, and didn't try to have that emotional subplot. The Tournament is really a movie best enjoyed after at least four beers, and even then you might find yourself nodding off near the end.