The Tournament takes a popular formula - contestants forced to fight to the death in a game-show and adds a British feel to it. Thirty assassins agree to take part in a deadly competition and the last man or woman standing is the winner, earning whichever rich businessman bet on them a considerable amount of money. Each year, this tournament takes place in a city around the world, with the mayhem and destruction written off as terrorist attacks or accidents, and this year's location is Middlesbrough, England. Unfortunately for one alcoholic priest, he is about to be mistaken for one of the deadly contestants and forced to take part in The Tournament.
I was expecting a low-brow Americanised Battle Royale rip-off, but there is a more European feel to this action adventure, which is akin to The Running Man, or to use a non-film comparison, it's a glossier version of The Button Man, a comic series written by John Wagner for 2000AD. While it isn't as satirical or political as Battle Royale, it is no less enjoyable and manages to keep the fast pace going throughout the movie, as well as introducing dynamic fight sequences throughout. I particularly liked the scene with the French Free-Runner as he attempted to kill the two main characters in the police car.
There are few notable names starring in this movie - Kelly Hu stars as the sympathetic hit-woman, Lei Lei, with Robert Carlyle as the reluctant priest, forced to participate in the deadly games. Ving Rhames and Ian Somerhalder also put in some memorable time as their roles, with Rhames as the world-weary assassin, tricked back into the game and Somerhalder's crazy Texan scenery-chewer, who is a far cry from his appearance as Boone in LOST.
It was slightly disappointing that the film felt the need to make some of the assassin's sympathetic as it gave the film a less morally ambiguous edge, and made us root for certain hit-men above overs, removing the Tournament feel to it. I would have preferred a more random feel to the plot, instead of knowing early on who was going to win the tournament, who would sacrifice themselves and who the bad guys would be. To an extent, Battle Royale was just as 'predictable' with the focus heavily on certain participants, which made it seems less evenly matched as a tournament.
I did enjoy this film more than I expected - I thought it might have been a low budget, poorly scripted, cash-in on the 'deadly gameshow' genre, but it actually had a lot of merit - both in the special effects and stunts, which were very impressive and with the calibre of acting and script. It could have easily have been a hammy production, with goofy hit-men and cringe-worthy dialogue. It wasn't high art - but it was damn fun!