Movie Review

The Tournament

Death by elimination
The Tournament Movie Poster

US Release Date: 10-16-2009

Directed by: Scott Mann


  • Robert Carlyle
  • Joseph MacAvoy
  • Kelly Hu
  • Lai Lai Zhen
  • Ving Rhames
  • Joshua Harlow
  • Ian Somerhalder
  • Miles Slade
  • Liam Cunningham
  • Powers
  • Sebastien Foucan
  • Anton Bogart
  • Craig Conway
  • Steve Tomko
  • John Lynch
  • Gene Walker
  • Nick Rowntree
  • Eddy Cusack
Reviewed on: January 5th, 2010
Ving Rhames and Kelly Hu fight to the death in The Tournament.

Ving Rhames and Kelly Hu fight to the death in The Tournament.

The premise of The Tournament would make a great video game and it has the potential to be a good (or at least entertaining) movie. Sadly, it's a potential it never lives up to. It should be over-the-top with an it's so bad, it's actually good vibe, but instead, it's just bad, often taking itself a little too seriously in the process.

Every seven years the tournament of the title is held in a different city around the world. The point of the tournament is for the world's greatest assassins to get together and kill each other until the last one standing takes home $10 million and bragging rights as the world's greatest killer. Behind the scenes is a syndicate of the world's most powerful criminals who sponsor and bet on the outcome. They also use their power to cover up the illegal activities of the participants.

The obvious plot hole is that if every seven years the world's best killers are all killed off except for one, doesn't that mean that in each subsequent tournament the best get worse? I mean if they weren't good enough to be in the last tournament they must have been either too young or too incompetent to participate. Now though, by the process of elimination (literally) they are now the best.

It doesn't really matter though if the plot makes sense or not, because the real point of the movie is the action. There are enough gun battles, fist fights and explosions to keep things moving and to cover up the melodramatic motives of some of the characters and the really bad dialogue.

Populating the tournament are an international group. Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) plays an alcoholic priest who gets inadvertently sucked into the game. Ving Rhames is the reigning champion who comes out of retirement to defend his title and to get revenge. Kelly Hu (X-Men 2) is there to provide some kickass girl-power. Ian Somerhalder (Lost, Vampire Diaries) plays the craziest of the assassins, but fails to bring the right manic glee that the part required.

There are character motivations and even a redemption story-arc for one of the characters, but the drama is beyond the writer's reach. Kelly Hu is perhaps the only character I ever felt empathy for. Carlyle, who is clearly slumming here, can't do much with what was written for him.

Perhaps it was the lack of budget, but the filmmakers should have gone further over the top. There are a couple of times when people quite literally blow up and those are probably the grossest scenes and there should have been more like them. And while there are scenes inside a strip club with a few flashes of tits, there aren't any sex scenes. They needed to amp up both the sex and the violence to make this truly a video nasty. I mean, given the plot and the characters, why try to cling to any semblance of realism?

The thing about a video game with this plot is that presumably it would be fun; something this movie is not.