I wasn’t even aware of the film The Tournament until Peter pointed out the trailer this evening. Now that I am, I can see it being a crazy, fun time totally untethered to any sort of reality. That is, one of my preferred action movie modes. The Tournament posits that every seven years in a small town, the world’s greatest assassins come together to compete for a tremendous cash prize and great renown. It’s the cast that might get your attention, though: Ving Rhames, Kelly Hu, Scott Adkins, and, as the priest caught in the middle of the action, Robert Carlyle. Check out the trailer after the break.
I thought of Smokin’ Aces as the trailer started to run, but The Tournament seems intent on delivering a more pure form of action. The whole deal is that each assassin is fitted with a tracker and ID device. One of those is passed to an unwitting Carlyle, who then becomes a confused and unwilling target. Or is he? I don’t know much about the director, Scott Mann (or writers Jonathan Frank, Nick Rowntree, and Gary Young, for that matter) but it looks like he’s worked to make a solid little b-action film here. (And be careful in looking around for more materials; there’s an old sales teaser on YouTube that I won’t link because it seems to give some big stuff away.)
As far as assassin competition movies go, though, The Tournament will have to go pretty far to beat the raw style and grandeur of Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill (1967) and his remake/sequel Pistol Opera from 2001. Those films take the competitive assassin angle and just blow it right the hell out of the water. If this can be considered a subgenre, Branded to Kill pretty much invented and then ended it all in one blow. Watch the (probably NSFW) trailer for it (Criterion has the film on DVD) after the Tournament embed. (And yeah, the ‘through the pipe’ shot at the beginning there was borrowed by Jarmusch for Ghost Dog.)