The Tournament (2009 movie) review…

The Tournament (2009 movie) review after the break…

The Tournament (2009 movie) review…

Adult entertainment movie plots have a dilemma – How do you write a plot that allows for the maximum amount of sex scenes while still having a… You know, a “plot”?

The same type of dilemma holds true for action movies except instead of nudity, it’s violence. After all, both sex scenes and violence, by themselves, don’t propel a movie forward. Take the classic lightsaber fight between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars 5: The Empire Strikes Back.” By itself, it’s actually a fairly dull action sequence. What makes that action sequence work is that the viewer has a relationship with these characters before the fight begins and the fight itself changes the characters as a result. The action sequence, as a result, serves as a vehicle to advance the plot and set the stage for future confrontations.

“The Tournament” is a 2009 movie starring Ving Rhames as a retired assassin drawn back into a competition where assassins compete to kill one another for not only a cash prize but also their own lives. Caught up in this fray is a female Asian assassin with a secret and a drunken priest who’s disheveled behavior unintentionally ropes him into a most dangerous game.

Movies like “The Tournament” have a threadbare plot – A closed-circuit reality TV event meant for wealthy people to gamble on people’s lives. There are dozens of movies just like this one which begs the question – Why another? What makes this one so special?

These types of movies are essentially adult entertainment movies with violence replacing the sex scenes. There are no grand story arcs or sweeping statements of contemporary social mores – The movie’s plot is just a framework meant to hang as many fight scenes off of it as the budget and time constraints allow.

The chief concern with a movie like this one is always the plausibility factor. Quite honestly, having 30 assassins running around an out-of-the-way town killing each other (and more then their fair share of innocent bystanders) is more then a comfortable stretch for the imagination. With a movie like “Highlander,” the constraints are easier to tolerate because it is “magic” the enforces the rules, a magic that can not be defied. Even a movie like “Mean Guns” has a more plausible setting, inside a high-tech prison where leaving is naturally quite difficult to do. A town, though? Honestly? Also, why would an assassin voluntarily put themselves in a tournament where there’s only 1 winner and 29 corpses? Wouldn’t the prize have to be larger then $10 million dollars? Athletes make more then that in a year and all they have to do is put a ball into a net or through a hoop.

The movie tries to have various sub-plots: A crafty French assassin who quickly learns how to break the rules of the game to his favor; A brash Texan assassin trying hard to emulate the crass and unpredictable behavior best exhibited by the Batman nemesis, “The Joker”; A mystery surrounding who killed Ving Rhames’ wife in the movie and why (Hint: It’s not hard to figure out); A “lost” priest who uses his involuntary inclusion into the game as a road to salvation.

Unfortunately, these sub-plots don’t prove very useful – The French assassin is clearly considered a “villain” character and is only used as a foil for our heroes; The Texan assassin serves only to be a false lead in Rhames’ search for his wife’s assassin and a cheap excuse for an action scene inside of a strip bar; The mystery behind the wife’s death is easily deduced after the first third of the film; The “lost” priest never demonstrates that he has recovered his faith as a result of being exposed to the tournament, only that he has survived (could he have at least shaved while performing his first post-tournament sermon or otherwise alter his appearance to look more “with it”?).

Ving Rhames lumbers through his scenes, top-billed but otherwise putting in a supporting role as the main heroes (the Asian assassin and the priest) receive most of the screen time. Oddly, one of Rhames’ actions may best have been served by the priest. In one scene, Rhames’ fakes drinking alcohol, only to spit it on an assassin at an opportune time to light his opponent on fire. Why couldn’t the priest have done this? The priest’s story arc was that he was alcoholic – Why not use the opportunity to show that the priest had changed? Imagine if an assassin forced the priest to drink but spit it out to set the assassin on fire, making the choice between continued inebriation or to use the wicked liquid against his enemies? Now that would’ve had a transformative effect on the character.

“The Tournament” has a forced ending that never resonates – A confrontation where everything is revealed and a few story arcs are resolved. Yet why not take the opportunity to resolve one tournament worker’s obsession with the Asian assassin, especially in light with her budding attraction to the priest? Why not have the two remaining assassins work together at the finale to confront the tournament’s producers?

“The Tournament” is a movie built especially for harboring as many action scenes as it can but those sequences ring hollow because there isn’t any character development to give those sequences depth. Without that depth, it doesn’t matter who wins the tournament or why because, quite frankly, who cares?

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One Response to “The Tournament (2009 movie) review…”

  1. Hjhj Says:

    Couldnt agree more, watching the movie as i write; why the fuck would they put the prize at 10million dollars, i mean its fiction they could have chosen a billion dollars and no one would argue because it’s a movie. Makes me think there might be some sarcasm involved from who ever wrote the script.

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