Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Tournament

Feel The Pain!

It's Mortal Kombat meets Battle Royale meets The Condemned, and just about any other film that has its premise put together a bunch of strangers who have to kill one another, or die. Fueled by high net worth individuals who have too much time on their hands and lusting after a blood sport spectacle, they pool their money together in a huge gamble, while paying off ten million dollars to the victor amongst assassins who enter The Tournament, a death match Royal Rumble of a competition where it's all man (or woman) for themselves, each assigned a random weapon to take to the streets of a chosen city of battle.

The Tournament tried hard to make its premise plausible, insinuating that all the terror attacks, disasters and massacres in the real world are nothing but a cover up for this clandestine game to happen. To add spice to this edition's event, the Powers (that be, played by Liam Cunningham) introduces a countdown death clock of 24 hours where a winner must emerge, or face death when their tracking implant explodes with maximum damage, which of course sounds very Battle Royale. Competitors are assigned random weapons, and the streets of Middlesborough in the UK provides adequate CCTV camera coverage to be tapped into and beamed to a board room of whales to observe what they're here for – high stakes in a high risk game.

So we have 30 elite assassins from around the world gathering in a city to take each other out, assisted by a GPS locater that points out foe from innocent bystanders. However, we don't see all 30 characters, and most of the time they are faceless assassins who provide that headcount number for the likes of Ving Rhames, Kelly Hu, Ian Somerhalder, Sebastien Foucan to finish off. Then there's Robert Carlyle's priest Father Joseph MacAvoy, who got unwittingly caught in the crossfire and thought to be a competitor, only for Hu's hitwoman with a heart of gold Lai Lai Zhen to save his skin time and again and keep him safe from harm.

The draw of a film like this is the violence, which is unadulterated with enough gore to please those who like their on screen violence dished out without flinching (thanks too to a higher rating), and full of blood with exploding body parts strewn everywhere. I have to agree though that all the fights are incredibly well filmed and choreographed, from close quarter kung-fu and fisticuffs, to parkour, and noisy shootouts and obligatory car chases. Having its characters hail from different parts of the world allowed for some variation when the gladiators do battle, and when down to using guns, you get a range from sniper rifles, pistols and shotguns. It is this variety in the battle scenes that keep things relatively fresh over the course of 90 minutes.

Attempts at providing character motivation, development and depth couldn't be expected from an all out action film like this one, so attempts to have Father MacAvoy's involvement in reasoning things out often fall flat very quickly. Plot development and twists can be seen from five miles out, which does its minimum to allow its fight sequences to be strung together. This has B written all over it and doesn't try anything to disown that fact. Loopholes are abound, but heck, if you don't buy into its premise, then you shouldn't be watching this in the first place, right? For action fans though, you will be in for quite a treat.

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