Tournament, The (Blu-ray) (2009)

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Released 7-Jul-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 95:16
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Scott Mann
Studio
Distributor
Mann Made Films
Reel DVD
Starring Robert Carlyle
Kelly Hu
Ian Somerhalder
Liam Cunningham
Ving Rhames
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $29.95 Music Laura Karpman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement Unknown
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Independent cinema is something of a weird beast, not least because the most significant changes the industry has undergone have left almost no room for small-stakes players. I say all of this because the low budget on The Tournament makes it both refreshing and frustrating. On the plus side, it is a daring attempt to tell a less cookie-cutter story. On the frustration side is the simple problem that the script really needed a little more thinking through. When proposing a preposterous idea for a plot, one must work carefully to make it seem a little more plausible. One problem for The Tournament is that it simply lays one implausible idea upon another without any thought concerning how to make the audience buy them.

     The main conceit is that every seven years, hit men from around the world gather in a city and compete in a battle until one remains standing. As a pair of technicians use various means to track who is killing who, various people with too much money and too little brains bet on the outcome. The two entrants who receive any characterisation at all are Lai Lai Zhen (Kelly Hu) and Joshua Harlow (Ving Rhames). In the midst of this, a priest by the name of MacAvoy (Robert Carlyle) finds himself a target after one of the contestants subverts the means by which he is being tracked. From then on, the film is just your standard battle between action heroes with little other than Carlyle’s performance to distinguish it. After seeing Kelly Hu in X2, I was longing for a film in which her talents are fully exploited and displayed. The Tournament, I am sad to say, is not it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Ever since the heady days when the idea of films being widely available on an optical disc was "new", buying the work of independent distributors has always been something of a crap shoot. The Tournament is one of the better efforts from this segment of the market.

     The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 within a 1920 by 1080 window. The transfer is sharp, but not quite as much so as we have gotten used to from the majors. If anything, I would say the quality apparent in the transfer is more because of its recent vintage than anything else. Shadow detail is also good but slightly below expectation. There is no low-level noise.

    The colours in the film are generally very subdued and dull, an aesthetic choice (presumably) that suits the story well. The transfer is faithful to this aesthetic, and no misregistration or bleed is evident.

     The transfer is encoded in AVCHD. Compression artefacts were mildly evident during fade-ins/outs, but aside from that they do not appear to be a problem. No film-to-video artefacts are in evidence during the feature proper. The closing credits, however, shimmer dreadfully, and it is a bit of a wonder as to why. Camera shake is evident, and it gets quite violent at times, but fortunately it is never during important parts of the film. Film artefacts are occasionally more visible than should be the case in a film of this vintage, but acceptable.

     The packaging claims there are no subtitles on this disc. This is not the case. Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired. They are a good deal more accurate than I am used to from even major distributors at this stage. So hats off for that, at least. (And while we are on the subject, Reel, a little more effort into small parts of the packaging such as reporting this accurately would go a long, long way. Cheers.)

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     When contemplating filling out a review here at Michael D's, one of the biggest points of dread is usually filling out the disc's specifications. Discs with as many as three dozen different subtitle tracks and a dozen soundtracks are not unheard of, and if I may be frank with distributors for a minute, it sucks so hard it makes me want to hit things. So The Tournament is an ideal disc from that point of view. Not only is there just the one subtitle track, there's also just one soundtrack to bother with. That is a DTS HD Master Audio rendition of the original English dialogue in 5.1 channels.

     The dialogue varies from being somewhat indistinct and muffled to being very clear and easy to understand. At least within the limits of different actors' accents and enunciations. These variations coincide with how important the spoken dialogue is in terms of making sense of the plot. No issues with audio sync are noted.

     The music in the film is credited to one Laura Kaupman. It invokes excitement and danger at the right times, but it really sounds like it could have been assembled from stock almost all of the time. This is not one I recommend hearing on its own.

     The surround channels are used to direct gunshots, car passings, and the other standard action film effects around the listener. There are occasional directional effects, but not many. The subwoofer gets a much better workout than the surrounds. Explosions, gunshots of varying calibres, car wrecks, and fisticuffs all get a good thump from the subwoofer. This is a good disc to let your neighbours know you dislike them.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Extras would have been nice. A commentary, a trailer, or even just some textual comments on how the film got made would have been good. We get, however, not a sausage.

Menu

     The menu is based around the same still as the cover art. It is silent. On the plus side, it is quick in response and fairly straightforward in operation. Also on the plus side is the presence of both a Top Menu and a Pop-Up Menu. However, the manner in which the Chapter Stop selection has been implemented makes it only slightly more than useless.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A and Region B discs have slightly more options in subtitles. Other than that, it appears to be much of a muchness.

Summary

     The Tournament has some noble, if fairly predictable, turns in its plot. But potential rarely goes begging to this degree. To understand why, imagine for a second that you are a mercenary whom your customers think can fight twenty-nine other members of your profession with a reasonable expectation of success. Then imagine you would even scratch yourself for the potential of a ten million dollar prize in today's economics. Much less take on twenty-nine of your fellows. If you can figure out the answer to that riddle, then you know whether The Tournament is implausible or insulting to the intelligence. Robert Carlyle and Kelly Hu are the only things that really save it from being a total write-off. Fortunately, they do so quite heroically.

     The video transfer is good.

    The audio transfer is good.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, June 17, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD45, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-P50U20A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR606
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer

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