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Hal MacDermot [Film Festival 10.18.09] United Kingdom movie review action

Year: 2009
Directors: Scott Mann
Writers: Jonathan Frank / Nick Rowntree / Gary Young
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Hal MacDermot
Rating: 7.4 out of 10

Once every seven years, thirty of the world’s most deadly assassins gather together and fight for the grand prize of ten million dollars – there can be only one winner, only one survivor.

Normally this genre of Battle Royale-esque movie is set on an exotic island, or a mystic m’larkey temple, and here’s why I knew I was in for something different right from the start, The Tournament is set in no-m’larkey-at-all working class Middleborough, in the rainy North of England. Scott Mann’s action packed debut feature stars Robert Carlyle as a drunken priest mistaken for a hitman, and the beautiful Kelly Hu as a real hit woman. For a $12 million budget, you get a good bang for your buck. There are a few bumps on the road with this film, but the script is witty, and the fight sequences are nicely decorated with blood and severed limbs.

Each killer has a tracking device surgically implanted into their bodies. Everyone gets a cool cell phone that shows when another player is approaching. This is especially wild when nine of them converge on the same grungy strip joint. In a distant control room, the uber rich bet on the kills, drink champagne, and all the while are compeered by Liam Cunningham’s crocodile smile. Contestants to watch include a crazy psycho Texan played by Ian Somerhalder (think Tyler in Fightclub meets Kevin Kline in a Fish Called Wanda, and the returning champion killer Joshua (Ving Rhames). Joshua is well pissed off as someone recently topped his Mrs., and it seems that the someone is one of the other contestants. Guess who! So far so not that original, story wise, but then the sneaky Frenchman assassin (Sebastian Foucan, actor/athlete) cuts his tracker capsule out and drops it into a cup of coffee that unsuspecting and always very hungover Carlyle gulps down by accident. Now the players are after our lad Rob too. Luckily, Kelly Hu takes pity on him and acts to save him. Or is Rob saving her?

The great thing about Middleborough as a location, or actually Bulgaria where it was really shot (but they look exactly the same in real life too except the Church) is the down to earth feel of the place. No fancy smancy palm trees and obscure religious paraphernalia here. A strong, gritty location for the bloody kills, dumpsters and dead dogs. The look is complemented by the marvelous fact that there is no CGI, no green screen. Also, several of the actors including Sebastian Foucan and Rachel Grant (hot homicidal chick in a jeep) insisted on doing their own stunts. Cut to movie trivia time: Middleborough is where the director and writers first came up with the story idea when they were all at college together about 5 years ago. And back to the movie. Director Mann cuts in cctv footage and the occasional fake TV news spot to add to the reality and multi-POV feel. In a topical touch, the newscasters explain away the mayhem as “terrorism.” Listen out for the snatch of Cole Porter amidst the power chords.

On the downside, I have to say by the end I got a bit tired of Robert Carlyle’s character. I liked the drunk priest idea, but he never develops beyond the “sh** I’m going to die” phase. Also, I was never really convinced by Kelly Hu’s “I am a sort of remorseful killer.” Though I always liked her in full on killer mode. In terms of dramatic development, I don’t think it’s at all wise to take your two main characters out of the field of danger when they need to be in the thick of it fighting for their lives; the idea is to ramp up the action not ramp it down. Still, the action stakes do catch up again in towards the end, red lorry yellow lorry.

Tournament is a movie full of special moments. A confessional scene between Carlyle as priest and Kelly Hu, that takes place in public toilet cubicles. And bless my soul, their souls, a chase scene with a red double decker passenger bus and a huge Leyland truck: on the one hand, I don’t buy that, on the other, what inspired genius! I met one of the steadicam operators at the screening, Dave Rutherford, and he said that 50% of his camerawork took place on a quad bike. How awesome is that?

Tournament is a movie that clearly deserves theatrical release, it’s a movie packed with great talent, action and wit. Dimension Films (the Weinsteins) has decided in their unwisdom to release Tournament straight to DVD on 20th October. Perhaps they’ve grown bored of making money?

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JackCrow (13 years ago) Reply

absolute garbage, full of "tense" scenes, with crappy plot, crappy acting that goes to downright pathetic.

Seen, and again wish I did not.


Michael Bartlett (13 years ago) Reply

I have been looking forward to this film for ages. I have no idea if it will be any good or not, but surprised Weinstein are putting it out on DVD given how much money they paid for it.

Whatever happens, my hat goes off to Scott Mann and AV Pictures and I hope this flick does well for Weinstein.

I'm just grateful it's *finally* being relased.


Kc (13 years ago) Reply

Good, fun movie.
You get what you expect. Chopped limbs, numerous bullet casings and a hot Asian assassin!
8 out of 10, easy.


agentorange (13 years ago) Reply

Totally. Gratuitously great. Really fun.


Michael (13 years ago) Reply

The actors were great especially Kelly Hu and Ian Sommerhalder. Easily Kelly's best acting role yet. Action was intense from start to finish. Too bad we didn't get to see it on the big screen. What is with Weinstein.

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