Sunday, 16 January 2011



Shameful as it may sound, there's a lot to be said for a movie that has absolutely no intellectual content whatsoever - not a shred - but exists solely and exclusively to hammer as much violence, gore, death, sadism, torture, blood and general mayhem as possible into your mind. As much as we'd like stimulation for the brain, sometimes the sight of ugly people beating the hell out of each other, or messily slaughtering them, is all you really need. And while there are times when you're almost driven to think "Enough with the brutality! Let someone survive!", there are also occasions when the sheer relentless carnage and destruction becomes mesmerising.

I am absolutely not making any claims for The Tournament, in which thirty of the world's greatest assassins congregate in Middlesborough for a Last Man Standing deathmatch in which at least twenty-nine of the contestants will die, many of them quite spectacularly. Heading the list is the reigning champion Ving Rhames, out for revenge for the death of his wife at the hands of one of the other contestants, and Kelly Hu, who wants the money so she can atone for her past sins. And caught in the middle is innocent alcoholic priest Robert Carlyle, mistaken for a player and dragged along by Hu.

It's an insanely violent movie and if what you want is 90 minutes of thuggery, fighting and murder then dive straight in. It's a film with not one molecule of artistic merit and is only interested in guns, knives and explosions. And on its chosen level, it has to be said it works brilliantly. Enough bloodshed - and by the look of it done with squibs and physical splatter effects rather than CGI, which to my mind is cheating - and bone-crunching to satisfy the most devoted gorehounds, laced with laughable tough-talk dialogue, and some terrific stunt sequences. Not something to be proud of owning on DVD, but as a senseless evening's rental it does deliver on its promises. Liked it a lot - again, I shouldn't, but I did.


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