One off the most balls-out fun, violent, bloody and awesome action movies was released in 2009 and I’m betting you didn’t even know.  That’s because it was not in theaters, it had no marketing campaign and it sounds stupid.  The synopsis from imdb reads like this: “Every seven years in an unsuspecting town, The Tournament takes place. A battle royale between 30 of the world’s deadliest assassins. The last man standing receiving the $10,000,000 cash prize and the title of Worlds No 1, which itself carries the legendary million dollar a bullet price tag.”

the tournament poster

Yes, THE TOURNAMENT reads like so many movies you’ve seen before.  And it plays very similarly as well.  Even in its description its most obvious influence is BATTLE ROYALE (2000) but replaces kids with assassins, an island with a town full of innocent people and removes all social commentary.  I argue that is a good thing.  Here’s five more reasons (plus a BONUS) why you should track down THE TOURNAMENT:

  1. Ving Rhames. I’ve always thought Rhames had a commanding presence but from the opening sequence of THE TOURNAMENT you will see a badass Rhames likes you haven’t seen before.
  2. Ridiculous premise. You’ve seen movies like this before.  And it’s usually a 1 on 1 battle or there are 10 people in an isolated building. THE TOURNAMENT? 30 assassins in a populated area. The one rule: Kill or die. Never once does the movie take itself seriously.  That’s a key to fun.
  3. Gore. This is drip for drop the bloodiest action movie I’ve seen in a long, long time. It out-gores the the aforementioned BATTLE ROYALE. Hell it has more juicy red than most horror movies I’ve seen as of late. This is a movie about assassins killing each other and innocent bystanders (wait till you see Ian Somerhalder blast strippers with reckless abandon) and it doesn’t shy away from showing the consequences of such a competition.
  4. Now with 75% less shaky-cam! For all the millions of dollars in big budget action flicks there’s far too much use of the ol’ shaky-cam technique to fuel forced intensity.  Add to that quick cut editing and you soon lose track of what is going on with Hollywood blockbusters. THE TOURNAMENT, while not entirely innocent, defies its budget and provides most set pieces with true intensity and clear action.
  5. Practical effects. If there’s much CGI in this movie, it’s hard to spot. The blood effects are real. The cars flying through the air, smashing into other cars are real. Kelly Hu is real.
  6. BONUS POINT: Robert Carlyle.

THE TOURNAMENT is the very definition of a glorious turn-your-brain-off Saturday afternoon action film.  This is a film I would have paid to see twice in the theater. As it was, watching it at home the first time I rewound at least 10 times saying to myself, “Did I really just see that?” It’s worth your time and it’s a shame it was dumped into DVD land.  Note: This film is available on DVD only in the US but there is a wonderful Blu-ray disc available through Canadian disc outlets.

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