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Film / The Tournament

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"It must be tough playing God with people's lives."
"30 contestants... 24 hours... one rule - kill or die. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets. The Tournament has begun."
Mr. Powers

A 2009 straight to DVD film starring Robert Carlyle, Kelly Hu, and Ving Rhames, The Tournament is a game in a similar vein to Battle Royale - the characters are clearly drawn from both it and imitation The Condemned (2007).

The Tournament itself is an event staged every seven years. Thirty of the world's greatest assassins are gathered in one place, where they kill each other to the last man. The title of "World's Greatest Assassin" and lots of money is the official prize, but naturally most of the competitors are doing it for other reasons specific to them. This time around, things have been spiced up with a 24 hour time limit and the inclusion of a former champion - whose wife was murdered by a competitor this time. It's Personal.

A little known film, reviews are sparse, and seemingly mixed. Despite the Follow the Leader premise and clear Cliché Storm, it remains entirely watchable, however.

The Tournament contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Lai Lai Zhen is the most prominent female assassin of the whole bunch.
  • Action Survivor: Father MacAvoy is not an assassin, he is just a drunken, down-on-his-luck priest. He spends most of the film being dragged around by Lai Lai, who does not likes the fact an innocent bystander has been dragged into the Tournament.
  • Anti-Hero: Lai Lai Zhen is a killer for hire, but she doesn't kill innocents.
    • Father MacAvoy is another example. He's not immoral, but he's depressed and drunk.
  • Anti-Villain: Joshua Harlow, who, despite being a mass-murderer, is only doing it for revenge this time, and has genuinely given up the business besides that and self-defense.
  • The Atoner: Lai Lai Zhen feels guilty because she killed Joshua's wife. She even mentions she would be okay with dying in the tournament.
  • Ax-Crazy: Miles Slade is the best example, but obviously half the cast qualify.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: As if Miles Slade wasn't evil enough, he lures in a dog and shoots it in the head just because.
  • Boom Head Shot: Many of the characters die in this way, starting with Steve Tomko in Lai Lai's hotel room.
  • Booze Flamethrower: In the strip club, Joshua spits a mouthful of high-proof booze through Miles' lighter as he is lighting his cigar, turning Miles into a Man on Fire.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Notably, Lai Lai Zhen and Father MacAvoy actually hijack this one... while being chased by a vengeful Joshua Harlow driving a semi-truck. For obvious reasons, they don't have time to evacuate the passengers.
  • Car Fu: Multiple Tournament contestants are killed by being hit by cars, notably Tupalov and Bogart.
  • Chase Fight: The big climactic fight has Bogart and Lai Lai trying to kill each other within a two-story bus which is being driven by Father MacAvoy, who is also dealing with Harlow chasing them in a fuel truck like a very angry Terminator.
  • Cigar Chomper: Axe-Crazy Professional Killer Miles Slade completes his image as a boorish American by smoking huge cigars.
  • Combat Parkour: Anton's an expert in fighting while performing all sorts of parkour feats, his nimble moves having him dodge obstacles with ease. He's after all portrayed by the freerunning expert Sébastien Foucan.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Father MacAvoy spends the whole film being collateral damage of one such decision: with his tracker removed, Anton Bogart can freely move around and dispose of opponents without them seeing he is coming in their Enemy-Detecting Radar and he also can follow the Father around to draw them out as bait. The plan do hits a bit of a snag when Lai Lai decides to protect him, though.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: Not explicitly quoted, but it is the film's opening scene.
  • Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing: When tied to a pole inside the strip club, Joshua is able to undo one of the screws enough to cut through his bonds.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Miles Slade cuts a finger off each of his victims as a souvenir.
  • Easy Evangelism: Father MacAvoy does this with Lai Lai Zhen, and manages to convince her to spare Miles Slade's life. He dies anyway when the organisers set off the explosive charge planted in him earlier.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: All participants of the Tournament are given a PDA that showcases the location of their fellow hitmen's trackers and the countdown before the Tournament ends and said trackers explode. Most of the plot happens because Bogart decides to cheat and removes his tracker so his fellow hitmen won't see him coming.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Despite her long history as a hired killer, Lai Lai Zhen decided to use the Tournament as an opportunity to retire because her last victim was the first person she'd killed who legitimately didn't know why someone would have wanted her dead.
  • Evil Laugh: Miles Slade does this quite a few times.
  • Explosive Leash: The tracking devices are this, on a 24 hour timer.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Powers regales Harlow with a speech about how he is a gladiator and deserved a better finale to his life than dying on his bed and confesses to having ordered the assassination of Harlow's wife to supply ”motivation".
  • Fin Gore:
    • What Lai Lai Zhen does to the first guy she encounters, Steve Tomko. He tries to strangle her with a wire, she manages to get behind him and cuts his fingers off with it. Then, she slams his mutilated hand into a wall.
    • Miles Slade frequently collects sliced-off fingers from his dead victims as trophies, including from a very much alive Joshua Harlow (albeit when Harlow was in a position where Slade could be reasonably sure he'd be dead in the next few minutes).
  • For the Evulz: Miles Slade genuinely enjoys killing, which is why he does it. It's not about pragmatism, or money, or any specific goal for him - just the fun of it. The smell specifically, for some reason.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: A lot of extra details about the film are only revealed in this way, and thus are only visible by well-timed pauses while watching the DVD. This includes the names and odds of most of the competitors, which are visible on things like the characters' trackers and the big board in the viewing area.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: The gas station brawl between Slade and Lai Lai is ignored but he attendant because he is listening to music on his earphones.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Lai Lai and Father MacAvoy commandeer a bus at gunpoint to escape from Joshua.
  • High-Speed Hijack: Bogart leaps from an overpass onto the top of a moving bus, and then smashes through the back window to get inside and fight Lai Lai.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Lai Lai Zhen easily qualifies, as she wants to win the money so she can retreat from society entirely, thus ensuring she won't kill any more innocent people. She also goes out of her way to help Father Mac Avoy throughout the film
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: Father MacAvoy invokes this dilemma on Lai Lai Zhen after she disarms and stabs Miles Slade's hand in place, and reduces the man to begging for his life.
  • I Love the Dead: Steve Tomko tells Lai Lai Zhen he will fuck her after he has killed her.
  • Impersonating an Officer: When Father MacAvoy is in the alley attempting to throw up the tracker, a police car pulls up and a uniformed officer steps out. Father MacAvoy starts towards him before he pulls out a submachinegun as Lai Lai yells out that he's a player.
  • Informed Ability:
    • Supposedly, the competitors are 30 of the best assassins in the world, but very few of them show any of the actual skills one would associate with such a title. Most of them resemble either typical thugs or the kind of people who kill a specific person for a specific reason.
    • Yuri Petrov, the ruthless Russian Professional Killer played by MMA-expert Scott Adkins. Reputed to be "An incredible all-rounder armed to the teeth. Fists, feet, bullets, bombs—utterly merciless, he has it all." with an insanely high betting odds of 12-To-1... except most of his rampage is from CCTV footage where he's killing faceless mooks. The one time he gets to show off his skills in a church fight against Lai Lai Zhen, he's on the losing end.
  • Innocent Bystander: Father MacAvoy, a priest and non-combatant unintentionally dragged into the titular Tournament after accidentally swallowing one of the bugs.
  • Jitter Cam: Many of the fight scenes are shot this way, though it gets especially difficult to follow with nine assassins in the room.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Steve Tomko garrotes a bellboy in Lai Lai's motel to try to do some Room Disservice. Notably, it is pointed out it's a kick the dog moment In-Universe, with the two hackers who give IT support to the Tournament being puzzled about him killing an innocent bystander.
    • Miles Slade invokes this fairly literally when he shoots a dog for no apparent reason. He also decides to aim at anyone, even to the point of not bothering to prioritise people actually fighting back, during the strip club shootout. After surviving that, he then finishes off the girl he was dancing with, for no reason whatsoever.
  • Le Parkour: Anton Bogart does this all the time. Seriously, it's his only character trait.
  • Look Both Ways: Tupalov stops his scooter in the middle of the motorway to take a shot at Lai Lai and Father MacAvoy. He is immediately hit by a bus.
  • Man on Fire: Joshua uses a Booze Flamethrower to set fire to Miles Slade in the strip club.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Tomko kills a bellboy and steals his uniform in order to deliver some Room Disservice to Lai Lai's room.
  • Neck Snap: How Anton Bogart dispatches of the female sniper, Gorel Mogerty.
  • Not Me This Time: Joshua joins the titular tournament in order to avenge his dead wife, believing his sworn enemy, the psycopathic Miles Slade, is the culprit. While Slide is indeed a ruthless killing machine, it turns out the person who killed Mrs. Harlow is Lai Lai Zhen, under Powers' orders.
  • Oblivious Janitor Cut: The service station attendant has his earbuds in and is looking away from the monitors, and so somehow fails to a notice a fight to death going on behind him between Lai Lai and Miles, despite them crashing through the glass door into the shop.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The death of Joshua Harlow's pregnant wife, shot by an unseen assailiant, is played out more than once in flashback scenes, the killer being ambiguous and that the vicious Miles Slade seeming like a suspect. The last time its shown, the camera turns back a bit to reveal Lai Lai Zhen as the killer.
  • Outfit Decoy: During the fight in the slaughterhouse, Joshua hangs his jacket over a cow carcass to trick Gene Walker into shooting it. Later he uses his shoes to distract Eddy Cusack in the Parking Garage.
  • Pet the Dog: Bogart pays for MacAvoy's coffee, getting him out of one crisis, having just gotten him into a bigger one since his own tracking device was in it.
  • Pineapple Surprise: This is how Lai Lai kills Petrov during the fight in the church. She throws him over her shoulder into the pews. She then holds up her hand to show a grenade pin dangling from her middle finger. Petrov gets an Oh, Crap! look on his face and looks to his belt to see which grenade it is before he explodes.
  • Pop the Tires: When Lina Sophia attempts to rundown Lai Lai and Father MacAvoy while they are in a phone booth, Lai Lai shoots out her front tyre, causing the vehicle to flip.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Every assassin MacAvoy encounters in the first half of the film gives him one, conveniently allowing someone else time to get the drop on them and save the priest's life.
  • Professional Killer: Most of the cast, which is to be expected for a film about a tournament for assassins.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Joshua Harlow quits being an assassin after the Tournament we see in the prologue. Powers orders Joshua's pregnant wife to be assassinated because he really wants Harlow back in the saddle, with plenty of money to be obtained from his odds of winning, too.
  • Room Disservice: Tomoko poses as a bellboy and delivers room service to Lai Lai's hotel room. This is a distraction to allow him to sneak in via the balcony.
  • Scary Black Man: Joshua Harlow is played by Ving Rhames and oozes Tranquil Fury.
  • Self-Surgery: Bogart uses his knife to cut the tracker implant out of himself.
  • Slaughterhouse Fight: Joshua is involved in a gunfight inside a slaughterhouse at the start of the film.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: At the end of the movie, Lai Lai secretly attends MacAvoy's mass. When he looks up, she has disappeared.
  • Super Window Jump: Petrov enters the church by leaping through the window; immediately scattering a spray of grenades around him.
  • Taking You with Me: Knowing that he is fatally wounded, Joshua shoves a tracking device down Powers's throat, and then wraps his arms about him, keeping them both in position till the time runs out and they both explode.
  • Those Two Guys: Eddie and Rob, the two techs charged with keeping track of the players and monitoring their progress. They provide a running commentary and act as Greek Chorus on the action.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: Petrov announces his arrival in the church by scattering a spray of grenades across the floor. Lai Lai shoots the first one away from her, and has to dodge the rest.
  • Tracking Chip: Each of the contestants carries a tracking device, embedded under their skin, allowing the observers to monitor their movements, and the contestants to track each other. Anton Bogart manages to remove his tracking chip, dropping it in a cup of coffee just in time for Father Joseph MacAvoy, a priest struggling with alcoholism and a crisis of faith, to drink it.
  • Vehicular Assault: Joshua attempts to ram a bus off the road with a chemical tanker.
  • Weirdness Censor: Lai Lai Zhen gives this as the reason why the random killings, chaos and carnage caused by the tournament won't be questioned by the general population. A car crash or random murder, even a spree of them, is nothing unusual in a big city after all. It's heavily implied that the organisers are relying on this as well, to account for what their cleanup crews can't cover up in time.
  • What Have I Done: Lai Lai Zhen realizes this after killing Joshua's wife, who was not only innocent but pregnant, marking Lai Lai's first victim who didn't know why someone would want them dead.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Yuri Petrov is introduced in the film as one of the tournament's most lethal combatants, having a Death Montage of himself executing several people, is played by MMA-expert and action star Scott Adkins... and dies before the first act is even over, being Lai Lai Zhen's second onscreen kill (Though not the first chronologically as a Once More, with Clarity revealed later on).
  • Worthy Opponent: One of the two unnamed hitmen of the Tournament in the prologue is acquainted with Joshua Harlow enough that he is glad that it's Joshua the one who is going to win and is given a prim and proper Mercy Kill by Harlow (One Last Smoke, wishing him a happy retirement and marriage and such) while the other hitman… well… let's just say he got what he deserved.
  • Your Head A-Splode: The tracking devices implanted in the players can do this, as well as make the upper half of the torso asplode. Lai Lai also does this to another hitman when she pulls out the firing pin of a grenade that's still attached to him.

"We must give thanks to the sorrow that shows us pity, to the pain that teaches us courage, and to the mystery which is a mystery still."