I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Tournament

tn_tournamentOnce every 7 years, in a different town each time, high stakes gamblers run a secret competition where the world’s greatest assassins all try to kill each other and the last one standing gets ten million dollars. With that premise and generic title this doesn’t sound like the kind of DTV I would like. And with Ving Rhames and Robert Carlyle starring I have to wonder if this was intended for theatrical release, which could also be a bad sign. We don’t want another EDISON FORCE on our hands. But the great Scott Adkins (UNDISPUTED II, SPECIAL FORCES, etc.) is in this so I’d been keeping my eye out ever since I spotted it on his IMDb page. It was released by the fucking Weinsteins with their pain in the ass exclusive deals (how the fuck do I get my friend to watch MARTYRS if he can’t find it anywhere?) so I didn’t know it came out until I got some emails about it. Two different people said it was even better than BLOOD AND BONE, which I’d pre-emptively declared best DTV action movie of the year.

mp_tournamentOne way I knew BLOOD AND BONE was gonna be special was that the opening scene hooked me. Honestly, that doesn’t happen in most DTV, but it happens in THE TOURNAMENT. It’s the last legs of the Tournament and it’s come down to three guys: one wounded and dying, one Ving Rhames out of bullets, the other one some evil guy who’s taunting Ving. You can tell some serious shit has gone down because the walls are literally covered in blood, the place is on fire and a crazed zebra is loose in the building. Okay, the zebra I made up, but still, I appreciate the chaotic scene that’s set here.

Suddenly Ving spots some dead person’s assault rifle across the room and knows it’s his only chance, so he runs and does a TRANSPORTER style floor-slide, lubricated by the huge puddles of blood and guts left in the Tournament’s wake. Also there’s a part where Ving leaps over something using the medium of the stunt double. That was a funny idea.

The main story takes place 7 years later, and Ving returns to the Tournament because somebody in it murdered his wife. By the way, a tip for the world’s greatest assassins: you don’t need ten million dollars. You are a highly paid professional as it is. I know you think you’re hot shit but if you enter the Tournament just for the money you’re a moron. Only do it for a good reason such as revenge.

To my surprise though the movie keeps Ving at a distance and develops two other protagonists: Carlyle as an alcoholic priest forced into the Tournament when he accidentally swallows one of their explosive tracking devices (long story) and Kelly Hu as a hit woman who tries to protect the priest. Her reasons for being in the game give it some good melodrama, they’re a combination of tragic, noble, self-serving and suicidal. I ended up rooting for both her and Ving even though they’re trying to kill each other.

Unfortunately Adkins (playing Yuri Petrov, another evil Russian) faces Hu right at the beginning, so you know he’s a goner. At least he gets in one fight with some of his trademark flying kicks and stuff, but they should’ve used him more. Same goes for Sebastien Foucan (the CASINO ROYALE free-runner and one of the creators of parkour). He’s in it longer than Adkins, but another parkour chase would’ve been nice.

Most of the other characters are obnoxious villains, but don’t worry, they die fast. It doesn’t hold back with the violence – lots of bloody bullet hits, face torchings, car flips, stabbings, explosions (both vehicle and human). The biggest action scene involves a gas truck chasing a city bus, exchanging gun fire and trying to run each other off the road while Hu and Foucan fight hand-to-hand in the back of the bus. Foucan jumps onto the bus from an overpass and swings around on the bars inside, so I’m tempted to call it parkour vs. kung fu. But then again Dirty Harry jumped off an overpass onto a bus and personally I don’t consider Clint to be a parkour guy. So that might not count.

It’s kind of cool how you think Ving is gonna be the hero, but it shifts perspective and in this section of the movie he’s The Terminator. And I like seeing Rhames playing a straight up violent badass again. The character is kind of a silly cliche (you can tell he’s a good hitman because he’s well dressed in a black vest and white shirt) but he seems to get into it. I enjoyed his scenery chewing in the climax where he confronts his enemy while overcome with emotion and a mortal wounding. He almost seems drunk.

The main villain gets it good, but he’s not really the kind of villain that’s fun to watch. He’s the kind who spends the entire movie standing at an evil table blowing alot of hot air while watching a bunch of computer screens. You also gotta keep hearing the two nerd tech guys talking real cocky about we have such and such online and we’ve lost visual contact and all that shit. And one of the guys I kept thinking was Devin Feraci from chud.com.

But I never got bored. Without a doubt this is topnotch DTV. I don’t agree that it’s the best of the year – I felt more connected to the characters and action of BLOOD AND BONE. It’s funnier and cleverer and both the hero and villain are good enough that I’m anxious to see them return in other movies. With THE TOURNAMENT I’d definitely watch a sequel, but I’m not gonna beg for one. Still, I can see why people would consider it best of the year, and it’s great to have more than one legitimately good DTV to argue over. (We’re still waiting on NINJA too, although I guess it opened already in Malaysia. And I’ll be seeing THE KEEPER very soon.)

The director is named Scott Mann. One of the three writers, Gary Young, wrote the upcoming Michael Caine revenge movie HARRY BROWN.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 9th, 2009 at 12:54 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

57 Responses to “The Tournament”

  1. Sounds good. So far there aren’t any news if the movie will hit here in Germany uncut, but I cross my fingers.

  2. So can we assume since you didn’t mention it that the action is all well done and shot with cameras that aren’t operated by ADD sufferers who’ve just snorted SCARFACE sized mountains of coke? Is that fight scene you mentioned done mostly for real, or can you tell they’re using green screens and whatnot?

  3. Interesting back story to how this flick came about. Several years ago here in the UK there was a nifty trailer for a version of this film doing the rounds, with an all-local cast – the most recognisable being Danny John-Jules (Blade 2, Red Dwarf). I was talking to him at a convention sometime after, and said how great it looked and asked what had happened to it. He looked really angry (he’s normally VERY laid back, so I was really surprised) and said that the directors shot the trailer in the UK to get funding for a full-length feature – but then got sufficient interest in it from abroad that they decided to re-cast the whole thing in order to guarantee US funding. Danny had been really interested in doing something homegrown, getting a solid UK action flick off the ground that brought funding into the local economy. The final version is shot in Bulgaria as well as the UK, so I guess that didn’t happen either.

    Have to say though, I’m a big fan of everyone in the new one – Carlyle, Hu, Rhames, Adkins, Liam Cunningham – and it’s fun to see the UK setting used in this way in the trailer, so I’m still looking forward to this one.

  4. I just watched Edison Force last week. What a mess. Somewhere deep down there is a salvageable movie in there, but god knows it ain’t ever coming out.

    You should review that Vern. It has its moments, and the acting isn’t bad. Most of the time.

  5. Speaking of Parkour action, have you seen District B13: Ultimatum yet, Vern? The plot’s pretty similar to the first one with a similar structure to things, but there seems to be a lot of more action and there’s a more colourfull cast of characters in the district with the different gangs, and a lot of it is set outside the District. Oh, and Raffaeli has to fight some goons using a Van Gogh painting as a weapon.

  6. Brendan – I meant to mention that there were a couple moments where I wished the action was staged clearer, but in general it’s fine, not the shakycam/quick cuts style at least.

  7. It brings up an interesting problem. It seems like maybe there’ll be an entire group of up and coming filmmakers who believe that that shakycam thing isn’t one school of thought that some people use, but is instead simply the end-all be-all of action cinematography. Obviously there are plenty of people that disagree, but those guys and girls probaly aren’t to hung up on making ‘pure’ action movies.

  8. Stu – I’m excited to see that although I read two different reviews saying that there was less action than the first and only 1 parkour chase.

  9. There is probably less pure parkour in B132 but on a minute-by-minute basis I don’t think it has less action. If anything, it moves at a faster clip than the first one so there’s less philosophizing in between ass-kickings. I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t as mind-blowing as the first one, possibly because it doesn’t have the thrill of the new anymore.

  10. I’d agree with Majestyk, but I also think there’s a bit more of Belle using Parkour for more than just running away from guys. He uses it offensively pretty cleverly a few times and in the main chase scene, he doesn’t just run away (though he still tricks plenty of guys into jumping out of windows and falling over balconies), but also adjusts the environment as he goes to create obstacles for his pursuers. There is more general action overall with Raffaeli doing a lot more martial arts stuff, and there’s several deleted/extended scenes of this stuff, including him facing off against a bunch of guards (and one of them happens to be carrying nunchuckas). Also a skinhead learns to work in a gang alliance consisting of black, chinese and muslim members… so it has pro-unity message.

  11. “And one of the guys I kept thinking was Devin Feraci from chud.com.”

    Vern – If he’s the most obnoxious guy in the room…

    It’s him.

  12. RRA – He just physically reminded me of Feraci. I know what you mean, but maybe that guy is turning over a new leaf. Did you see his list of ten favorite films today? It started with a long thank you to various people including the readers for allowing him to have his dream job, not a snide comment included. He may have been visited by a series of ghosts recently, or contemplated what it takes to change the essence of a man. Whatever got into him I hope he sticks with it.

  13. this reminds me of the video game “The Club”

  14. Here’s what I don’t get: if a tournament is staged in which elite assassins compete to kill each other, are the organizers seriously considering the long term sustainability of the profession? How is a guy going to find himself a reliable assassin if the talent pool is so radically depleted every year? After only a few of these tournaments, you’re going to have totally unqualified people filling all the vacancies. You’re going to have temp agencies sending you some bored high school dropout when you want someone whacked.

    It’s like if the world series of baseball culminated in the winning team killing every other team. Sure, the Yankees are happy, but next season Baltimore has to start from scratch. Pretty soon the city is pulling drunken hobos off bus terminal benches and slapping baseball jerseys on them just so they can field a team that year.

    And you got to think that enthusiasm to enter the profession is going to suffer.

    But maybe that’s the beauty of being an assassin: those guys play for high stakes. That’s their aura.

  15. No Jareth, see this makes sure that there is always room for the up and comers. You don’t want to get with an old, tired assassin that won’t quit. I mean, you know how loyal all those old crime families are, they have codes and shit, they’ll keep using the same talent over and over again. By making them go through the tournament, you make sure that there is always a place for innovators and youngblood.

  16. Okay, that makes sense. All of those hit men with SOPRANOS body types
    would get weeded out. All the assassins would look like, um, ECKS VS. SEVER.

    But seven years between tournaments is a pretty brief period of time in which to become a really good assassin. I’m pretty sure that Leon the Professional had a longer apprecenticeship. I have to wonder about the skill set of an assassin whose education has been fast-tracked like that. Sort of like no-assassin-left-behind or something.

  17. I can’t agree enough on this Weinstien / Blockbuster exclussive deal bullshit. WTF, I say.

    And Blockbuster exclussively carried L’Interier but decided it was too violent (wtf?! Did they even know what they were buying the rights to?) so their version had 7 fewer seconds of uterus stabbing! Who the fuck wants to see that?

    The whole thing is a threat to liberty and freedom.

  18. Yes. The Keeper. Already seen it three times.

    I don’t want to hype it too much but I’d say it’s pretty damn good.

  19. Rusty James – Yeah that annoys me. Also delayed the inevitable Criterion CHE release.

    I really wish Netflix would just finally finish off Cockbuster.

    Be perfect too since Blockbuster years back had the chance to buy Netflix for relatively dirt cheap. And they said no.

    Revenge is a bitch in heat.

  20. I think the problem is the Weinsteins, not Blockbuster. As long as they’re loose they’ll find new ways to fuck up everything.

  21. at least with THE KEEPER he’s finally learned to set up a positive title-pun for the critics. How many critics could resist the obvious lure of “driven to watch someting else” or “I don’t know about killing, but switching to another line of work might be a good idea”. It’s like he was letting David Cross name his DTV movies.

  22. Rusty, don’t you know how lucky you are, that your version of L’interieur is missing only 7 seconds? The German version is missing two minutes AND got recently banned!

  23. CJ, your English seems fairly impeccable, so why don’t you just get an all-region player and order the American version? Since German censors are so quick with the scissors, that might save you a lot of grief.

  24. I’m sure Faraci will be back to his usual self as soon as more Batman 3 rumors start accumulating and there is fanboy ire to provoke.

  25. Mr Majestyk, the problem is that I’m a cheapskate and importing DVDs cost often way too much. Especially movies that are heavily censored over here, because the salesmen just know that a certain target audience will pay a lot of money for these movies.

  26. Can’t you just go to Amazon? Or does the higher shipping & handling negate any savings?

    I know the pain of not being able to get the proper version of a movie. Hell, the whole reason I bought a region-free player was so I could watch the uncut Australian version of Death Wish 2.

  27. Vern – Who knows? Devin being an ass wasn’t the problem. Everyone is an ass to a degree. Sometimes its needed. His was his ego or at worst his pretentions.

  28. Mr Majestyk: Amazon is a little bit tricky. Sometimes you get the UK versions of some movies, but they are not necessarily uncut. Not to mention that if a film is banned, it’s of course usually not listed on the German site. For US versions I have to go to the American Amazon page and there I need a credit card to buy anything, but I don’t have one.
    The best way for me is to check out one of these movie markets, that happen every few months, where you can get all kinds of shit on DVD for sometimes pretty reasonable prices. So I even got an Austrian DVD of Evil Dead 1 a while ago. (Another movie that was cut to pieces over here and got banned anyway.)

  29. What is this Scarecrow Video place that is always quoting your reviews?

  30. They’re a huge video store in Seattle. I gotta remember to turn off those fuckin “pingback” things though, I hate those.

  31. I recently found out that buying a special, all-region DVD player is not necessary — there are codes you can use to turn ANY player into one.

    http://www.videohelp.com/dvdhacks

    But I haven’t tried it, so don’t blame me if your machine blows up.

  32. Usually these codes work pretty good, the problem might be just that if you own a cheap no-name DVD player, that nobody bothered to find out the secret code and you will never know how it works.

  33. Just saw this, and I hate to say it, but I liked it better than Blood & Bone. Yeah, none of the characters are as good as Bone, but The Tournament was more exciting from start to finish. It’s nonstop badasses blowing each other apart with no regard for human life or common decency. It’s got it all: a little kung fu, a little parkour, a lot of cars getting thrown through the air, and multiple full-body explosions. Plus, gratuitous shotgunned strippers. This is the movie I want to see every time I see a movie like this.

    Also, Vern, did you not notice that Ving blows up that guy’s head at the beginning with the air-powered spike gun that they talk about in Texas Chainsaw? I know the Hitchhiker doesn’t care for it but it seemed pretty effective to me.

  34. Do you mean the air cannon Chigurgh had in No Country? That thing was disturbing.

  35. It was a much more extreme version that looked like a bazooka or something. It didn’t just make a neat, tidy hole in the dude’s head, it scannered it all over the place.

  36. Ah. That sounds awesome.

  37. Credit for turning a scene from Scanners into a verb.

  38. Wait, that’s what Ving used? Are you telling me they were supposed to be in a slaughterhouse? Because I’m gonna be disappointed if that was animal blood on the floor and not human.

  39. Considering how much blood spewed out of people in that movie, I think we can assume that the slaughterhouse had been closed down for the day before the assassins came in and dirtied it up again.

  40. I just heard that the movie won’t come out uncut in Germany. BUT the only scene that’s missing is aparrently one in which a dog gets shot!?! That’s weird, even for German standards.

  41. Man, some serious irony in all those negative comments about Feraci. Honestly surprised since Devin and Vern got so much in common, in the writing style too. Heh, check out his Rocky post today, methinks ol’ Feraci has been reading a whole lot from the outlaw lately. Contagious stuff. I remember this day you mention though, it was the day he is closer to 40 than 30, a day that shakes anyone’s compass for just a moment. Small possible it was directed by Nick (and co) instead, given all info at hand. One or the other, but clearly nothin’ drastic as suggested here.

    Tourney was good. Ving’s acting, specially at the end, did remind me of Sin, and why you dun see Ving round so much. Fucking love the monkey guy from bond. Wanna see more. Like the little dude from Bloodsport on steroids.

  42. Coming back to this thread cos it got me thinking of something. Prolly only time ever to say this, but i think I speak for everyone here to say that your favourite ten films would be a list of real interest. Devin’s post premise is a good one, as in not the 10 best films like Up and Godfather or some shit – though Godfather is fair choice for favourite, but anyways, your actual favourite films that given any choice home alone you would wanna chuck on.

    I show u mine to get ball rollin,

    Fight Club
    Natural Born Killers
    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
    Dawn of the Dead (Remake)
    Steel Frontier

    First Blood
    Hellraiser 2
    Matrix Reloaded
    Evil Dead 2
    Road Warrior

    and Dune.

  43. What a fabulous recommendation. This is exactly the kind of movie I want to see. I would even disagree that Foucan was underused. I thought he got a solid few scenes of Parkour. I’d imagine this movie didn’t have the budget to set up multiple elaborate free running sequences, so I’d rather see him shine a little bit than be forced into scenes with nothing to do, like the actual District 13 sequel. He’s definitely a guy who should get his own vehicle though.

    Definitely the kind of crazy shit I want to see in any action movie, let alone a rental at home. Helps to have an A-list cast (Rhames, Carlyle and I’d say even Hu). I didn’t even recognize Ian Somerhalder. But either way, if they save the star $ and throw in more crazy shit, that works too.

    Thanks, Vern.

  44. Well it had to happen. I’m finally underwhelmed by one of Vern’s DTV recommendations. Yeah, I can see why it was DTV. Yeah, it’s ok. Parts of it were very good, but this was not the story I wanted told.

    Vern, you remember in your Elektra review you said how a much more interesting movie could be made if Elektra didn’t choose to save her targets at the start instead of killing them? Well it didn’t bother me in that movie as much as it does some people (seriously, that movie gets some real hate). But it does here. I deliberately avoided all spoiler-y parts of your review so that I wouldn’t be spoiled for it, which I think was a good thing.

    But it did mean that in a movie called “The Tournament” based on an elite group of assassins trying to kill each other, I was unprepared for one of my least favorite movie stereotypes, as portrayed by Robert Carlyle – the priest who’s lost his way who’s taken under the wing by the hero. The whole fucking movie was about this character. It comes off vaguely patronising – I mean, do we REALLY need an “I-level” character who’s not a ruthless assassin in a story about ruthless assassins? Especially one as annoying as this?

    I’m going to give this one a proper dissection, warts and all. So let’s begin:

    1) Kelly Hu can’t carry a movie. She has the looks but not the acting chops or the presence. She didn’t do much wrong, but she didn’t have much to work with in the script either, and she doesn’t really improve on it. There’s one scene, where she talks about one of her past kills, which should really be gut-wrenching. It’s not: the script and acting doesn’t allow it to be.

    2) Talking of which: Robert Carlyle is always good, without exception, no matter what he’s in. Heck, he almost made the line “Welcome to my nuclear family” work in “The World is Not Enough”. Almost. He’s completely wasted here. He gives it his all trying to inject this character with some pathos, but even he can’t pull it off.

    3) The movie also suffers from some weird casting choices, although I LOVE Foucan and wish I could’ve seen more of him. If you’re going to make a DTV movie like this, I think you gotta go with professional fighters for the assassins – look at “Blood and Bone”, half the MMA line-up was in that film, and it worked.

    4) Scott Adkins is wasted in this movie. His fight with Kelly Hu is – and I find this incredible – forgettable. Seriously. The chase with Foucan is far better than this. Every single fight scene in “Blood and Bone” is better than this. All the major fights in “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” are FAR better than this. Actually, come to think of it, Hu’s fight with Hugh Jackman in “X2” is far better than this. It wasn’t bad, it was just – not great.

    5) Ian Somerhalder is a weird, left-field casting choice that works unexpectedly well. Like Fred, I didn’t recognize him.

    6) The last minute twist is both predictable and head-clawingly dumb. It requires a certain character to act in a way that makes no sense whatsoever, for a reason that’s never clearly explained. I mean, what was that person EXPECTING to happen? And why did they do what they did? What did they stand to gain by making sure that a certain person was in a certain place at a certain time? Didn’t they already have enough without that?

    7) The Foucan chase also used the landscape (which I’m fairly familiar with, I haven’t been to that specific town but I know the general area) to great effect. I don’t know why the rest of the movie didn’t run with the British theme instead of trying to turn it into “The Terminator”, complete with the scenes at the gas station and fuel truck. I would rather have had a good original movie based in a British industrial town than a bad imitation of a classic.

    8) The tournament organizer should’ve survived. Killing him in that way required, again, the use of an insanely dumb plot twist. I like the idea of the tournament being repeated again, in seven years time, with the same person in charge. Not the inane supposedly-feelgood ending they actually had. Call me cynical but I like the idea that in a tourney that could be an allegory for a certain type of dog-eat-dog society, the machine just goes on, regardless of what’s happened before now. It wouldn’t have fit with “Toy Story 3”, that’s for sure; but it would fit here.

  45. Ok, deep breath taken. As you’ve probably already gathered, this is a long one.

    So here’s the problem with this movie. And it’s the same problem that I had with the ending of “Battle Royale” and the main plot of “Elektra” and many, many other movies of this type.

    You get a great setup. Seriously, an awesome setup. Thirty of the world’s top assassins come to compete in a tournament, a class of schoolchildren meet on a remote island where only one can survive, an assassin has to kill a family at the behest of an evil ninja clan. Provided the action and characters are decent, how the fuck do you go wrong with a setup like this?

    Answer: you don’t stick to it. For whatever reason – maybe you’re a writer and become attached to your characters; maybe the producers intervene and say, “look, this is too dark, the audiences won’t like it”; maybe you have a case of real-world “morality” and apply it to your own fantasy world, regardless of what rules apply there.

    And so you wimp out. You don’t follow through. The sweet talking is great, but when you try to follow through on your promises, everything goes limp and floppy. You lose the courage of your convictions.

    This should have been a film about the thirty deadliest assassins in the world, duelling to the death. I wanted to see a film where the central character is a deadly assassin. Apparently the film-makers either can’t make a killer relatable, or they don’t think I can handle it, so instead I get a film about twenty-nine deadly assassins, one unusually skilled sulky twenty-something girl who was – maybe? – one of the world’s greatest assassins, at some point? – and a fucking annoying priest who gets dragged around like Tanya Roberts in “A View to a Kill”; and who, like Tanya Roberts, will NOT SHUT UP. Because he’s busy acting as her “soul” or something, like Jiminy Fucking Cricket in Disney’s “Pinocchio”.

    Oh, and they Ving Rhames’ character, the deadliest assassin in the entire world, a dead wife. Because everybody knows you can’t have motivation in movies unless there’s a woman somewhere who’s either kidnapped or dead.

    Look, I don’t think this is a bad movie. Parts of it are very good. When it does its premise justice, it’s great. The scenes of assassins stalking each other are, for the most part, very well done. The Adkins/Hu fight is so much less than it should have been, and there’s a scene in a bar that promises far more than it delivers; but Sebastien Foucan once again proves that he’s the best thing in a movie. Had the whole movie been like this, I would be giving it an unconditional recommendation.

    As it is, I’d still recommend it. For the most part it’s fairly tense, and like Vern, I was never bored. But don’t come in expecting it to be anything like as good as “Blood and Bone” or “Universal Soldier: Regeneration”. It’s better than “Elektra”, most of my comments on that movie also apply here. It’s not telling the story that I want it to tell.

    Come to think of it, if “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” had ended with all the evil scientists being killed and it being made implicitly clear that the Government would never do anything bad again, ever? That’d be pretty much the equivalent of the ending of this one.

    You know, just once I’d like to see a movie about killers, where killing is just another part of their moral make-up, and not something that requires either repentance or “movie justice” (generally death by faux-morality).

  46. I much appreciate what I see here, Vern & Paul, but I have not yet seen this film. I have nothing against the wall[s] of text, and, as you may have seen, I love to make my revolving set of rental DVDs based almost purely on fucking outlawvizzern.mothafuckincom, son.

    In the words of General MacArthur, “I shall return.”

    Meanwhile, don’t lemmeforgetyah?

  47. Haha, I won’t. Thanks Mouth.

    Would definitely like to debate this one some more. It does seem that this forum has specifically become about action filmatism recently, to the exclusion of a lot else. (Yeah, I know that there’s just been a topic specifically about that, but has anybody else noticed that several of the review topics have got “hijacked” by this subject as well?) Not, you understand, that I have any objection to the debate over action movies – heck, it’s what we do! – but things do seem to have got rather narrowly focussed recently, and it’d be nice to get back to a broader perspective.

  48. – The original Paul

    I think you are right about the debate being focused on action filmatism, but it doesn`t seem to be a lot left to discuss about movies nowadays (except taste, which can`t be discussed anyway). Yeah, that`s a pretty harsh statement and not entirely true, but my point is that we have seen everything cinema has to offer now. No more surprises. No more sfx, insane stunts, unpreeceded brutality, broken taboos or stylistic choices, that we haven`t seen a thousand times before. No stories that haven`t been told before. Yeah, I guess we can discuss subtext in movies. I would frigging love to se Vern getting all political and shit like in his old columns. Maybe I`ve been reading too much Hunter S. Thompson lately, but something something hangover something.. Yeah, my point being that I haven`t really been suprised by a movie in years. No context, image or context can compare to experiencing the opening of Starwars, the psychological mindfuck of Blue Velvet, the style of Tarkowsky, the post-modern coolness of Tarantino etc. When the most exciting new “visionary” director is Zack Snyder, what`s left to get excited about? Where`s the new Bergman, Hitchcock, Godard, Spielberg? Who`s pushing cinama in new exciting directions? And why haven`t I heard about them yet?

    I liked the tournament a lot. I didn`t think much of story or the actors, despite Carlyle being a favorite of mine, but the movie surprised me. I usually don`t watch direct to dvd-action, so the sweet awesomeness and brutality of the action-scenes caught me off guard. I don`t think theres a lot to discuss about The Tournament, but it´s interesting that I have to watch a low-budget direct to dvd action-movie to experience the old thrill of cinema; the joy of seeing something I didn`t expect!!

    If I watch a blockbuster, I know they spent 150 mill, so everything can happen and nothing surprises me. That might be why The Tournament hit a sweet spot with its fans. But I guess it`s kind of sad that one has to lower his expectations by watching direct to dvd in order to experience the thrill of being surprised by a movie.

    Where is the next Scorsesse, Kurosawa, Lucas or Romero? Any hints, fellas?

  49. DNA – “NOTHING LEFT TO DISCUSS?!!”

    Damn, I thought I was cynical, but I really think that takes the cake. Thinking over some of the movies I’ve seen recently… “Inception”, “Scott Pilgrim”, “Rogue”, etc… I mean, what exactly do you want here? Every day news comes through on the Internet about some new film that does something different or great. It’s a great time to be a film fan.

    And as for “lowering expectations in order to experience the thrill”, I watched “The Tournament”. It was competently done, some of the action scenes were good, but the story and characters stank of movie-morality to the point where it really, really pissed me off. I enjoyed it in part, but comparing it to “Scott Pilgrim” or “Inception” strikes me as ridiculous. Are you honestly saying you weren’t even a little awestruck by what these films accomplished – visually, thematically, or in any other way? Would you say that about other recent films you’ve seen, if you didn’t like the two that I mentioned?

    If you honestly feel that the answer to that question is “yes”, there’s only one thing to do. Take a few months in which you don’t watch any films at all. Then gradually work your way back into them, watching ONLY films that have been recommended to you by people you trust. In other words, try and get your sense of wonder back. Otherwise watching films just becomes a chore; and if it’s gotten to that point, no wonder you’re underwhelmed with Hollywood right now.

  50. NB – should make it clear I know YOU weren’t comparing “The Tournament” to “Scott Pilgrim” or “Inception”, I was just citing them as an example of superior Hollywood moviemaking.

  51. – Paul

    I haven`t seen Scott Pilgrim yet, but I liked Inception a lot. I just don`t think that Nolan is the second coming. Hell, I don`t even think that he`s a great director. He`s a master of convoluted screenplays that fucks with your mind and he has made some great flicks, but his style of directing is underwhelming, to put it mildly.

    Yeah, I know blow things out of proportions, but my point still stands. Am I excited about any coming movies? Hell yeah! Caspar Noe, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, David Fincher, Gondry, Von Trier etc still amazes me. But all my favorite directors have worked for decades. Where`s the new blood? Where are the new directors with their distinct voices, storytellers who excite and push the envelope of cinematic language?

    Spectacle just doesn`t do it for me anymore. There`s no uncharted teretory anymore. No wonder and no “holyshithowdidtheydothat”-moments. No transgression or taboos left to break. All we audience really got left to be excited about is the progression of cinematic language. And the most progressive directors we got, are the dudes who doesn`t shake the camera while filming action.

    That said, I`m totally hyped about ENTER THE VOID, BLACK SWAN and SUCKERPUNCH.

  52. Does Nolan have to be the second coming? Such concerns are all about the hype, which has nothing to do with the movies themselves.

  53. RRA – I agree with you. Thank you.

    It’s true that a lot of the stuff we’re seeing has been done before, but that’s always been the case since very early on in the history of film – hell, probably since “Citizen Kane”. And yet I still find myself regularly surprised and entertained.

  54. “Where`s the new Bergman, Hitchcock, Godard, Spielberg?”

    “Where is the next Scorsesse, Kurosawa, Lucas or Romero? Any hints, fellas?”

    Well, to be fair, most of these guys didn’t arrive as fully formed auteurs. Godard came up with BREATHLESS pretty quick, Romero made NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD right out the gate, but other than that most of these guys spent time in the trenches making movies/TV we would barely remember them for if they hadn’t gone on to their signature work. It’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll be able to identify an auteur based on a movie or two. Bringing up guys like Fincher, Aronofsky, Nolan, Tarantino, Soderbergh, Charlie Kaufman, Lars von Trier, etc etc is fair, as they all (hopefully) have decades of work ahead of them and more creative freedom with each passing film.

    But the landscape of film production is also different now than it was in the golden age of the auteur. I mean when you say the word “auteur”, most people think: Bergman. Godard. Truffaut. Antonioni. Fellini. Tarkovsky. Kurosawa. Kubrick. Malick. Georges-Clouzot. Herzog. Hitchcock. Scorsese. Leone. Bunuel. Jodorowsky. And for the most part, most of these guys’ best work comes from the same two decade window (1960-1980). It was a time when cinematic artistry was fostered in the American studio system. And as for the foreign filmmakers, they were more appreciated here. Other countries still foster their artistic filmmakers, but the market for their work isn’t nearly as appreciative. Every year I go to my local film festival and see 50-60 movies. I usually see at least a dozen that are worthy of being mentioned with the greats, but it’s hard to tell if any of the filmmakers will ever develop into full fledged auteurs because the industry is so cutthroat now. Bong Joon Ho has a good a chance as any, but over here he’s most known for his American-sensibilities-friendly silly monster movie THE HOST, and not his brilliant thrillers MEMORIES OF MURDER or MOTHER. These days we want our auteurs to direct fucking superhero movies. If they’re coming up in the system and want a respectable budget to make their art picture, they basically have to make a blockbuster first.

    And even with non-blockbusters let me tell you, as an aspiring screenwriter who has been down the development road with a studio twice now, trying to sneak your desired vision into a commercial enterprise is not fucking easy. The notes I have gotten back on my stuff are enough to make me want to give up sometimes, but I am not a quitter or a pussy. But I doubt the guys in the 70s had to deal with execs and story departments that have honed their generic lowest-common-denominator sensibilities down to such a science, that have read the entire canon of 80s-00s screenwriting dogma and will call you out the instant you step on Aristotle’s toes or violate one of McKee’s golden rules. If you truly want to be creative and transgressive, film is not the easiest place to do it.

    Long ramble short: the talent is there. The ideas are there. They always are. We are not “running out” of ideas and filmmakers. They are just being choked to death by the system.

  55. Got bored with this, couldn’t make it all the way through…
    I thought it was smart-arse without being smart.

    Loved a couple of moments, like the locator thrown into coffee pot… but that’s about it.

    Even Scott Adkins, great as he is, he was so underused and I thought his fight with Kelly Hu was kinda flowery.

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