Monday, April 14, 2014

The Tournament, Guns, Grenades, and Redemption

My favorite Kelly Hu (Hawaii Five-O & Stiletto) work is 2009's "The Tournament." A gory, loud, violent shoot-em-up flick, "The Tournament" ultimately delivers a very divine message which we all can heed as Easter approaches.  Hu plays Lai Lai Zhen, a viscous Chinese assassin who by fate (...or divine intervention?) is thrown together with a priest, played by Robert Carlyle, who is battling the bottle and just lost his church.  Both these characters are given the opportunity for redemption, through a sick tournament.
 The plot:  Every seven years a tournament takes place in which 30 of the world's most deadly assassins compete for $10 million.  They converge on a city, this year it is Middlesbrough in Great Britain, and must be the final assassin standing after 24 hours.  Each player has a tracking device implanted in them and are also given a tracker so they can hunt each other down.  As the tournament begins, Zhen quickly gets the ball rolling (or shall we say, the gun firing?) by offing an opponent who sneaks into her hotel room in most gory fashion.  In the next scene, a French assassin cuts out the tracker from his own gut, and throws it into a coffee pot in a diner.  Father MacAvoy (Carlyle) then inadvertently swallows the tracker and is now hunted by the remaining assassins.  MacAvoy is pathetic.  Unable to refrain from liquor and mocked by his parishioners, whom he has let down, he finds his way to his old church and prays that God will save him, and restore his heart which is gone.  Not immediately realized by our fallen priest, God is about to answer his prayers.  Just as he prays for "hope," Zhen appears, ready to dispose of him.
Other assassins arrive, and Zhen ends up saving MacAvoy's life and takes pity on him.  Zhen now is faced with surviving this tournament and keeping the priest alive.  Throughout the rest of the movie, MacAvoy sees Zhen's beauty and implores her to pursue a virtuous life, while Zhen implores MacAvoy to stop drinking and save himself.  This irony is not lost on our protagonists, as MacAvoy muses that it is funny to receive health advice from an assassin.  To complicate matters for our unlikely duo, the reigning champion, Joshua played by Ving Rhames (Dawn of the Dead & Piranha 3D) begins pursuing them.  Zhen was tasked to kill Joshua's pregnant wife a few years back, and now she is the object of his revenge.  Is redemption possible for these two, even after the depths they have explored?  Ultimately, this is what "The Tournament" is all about.
 Of course the final showdown is exciting, and contains a few plot twists.  Hu, Carlyle, and Rhames are all fantastic, especially playing hopeless beings who are given a chance to reassess where they are going in life.  The final scene has MacAvoy delivering a sermon, and words of advice that we can all benefit from.  Even in the carnage and violence of B Movies, uplifting and wholesome messages can appear.  To quote the swamp thing from the movie "The Swamp Thing," "There is beauty in the swamp if you look in the right places."

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