Remember the days in the mid-80’s up till the early 90’s when the multiplexes were ruled by machismo-laden “junk” action films with a formulaic storyline, stunt-happy sequences being served by action stars Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal. Hell, they were also at times served by Stallone and Schwarzenegger themselves. After his debut film “The Marine”, WWE superstar John Cena stars in his follow-up film “12 ROUNDS”. Seems like this is the formula for wrestlers these days, wrestle, develop a following and then star in your movie. “Hulk Hogan”, “Stone Cold Steve Austin” and “The Rock” had their shot at the silver screen, so why not WWE’s latest golden boy John Cena?
Danny Fisher (John Cena) is a New Orleans patrolman who gets mixed up with a FBI sting that goes horribly wrong. During the scuffle, Danny accidentally causes the death of the girlfriend (Erica Kosson) of an arms dealer named Miles Jackson (Aiden Gillen). Now one year later, after Danny is promoted to detective, Miles resurfaces and he has vengeance in his mind. Miles kidnaps Danny’s wife Molly (Ashley Scott) to set up a twisted game of cat and mouse. The former patrolman must survive 12 rounds of violent and dangerous challenges in order for Danny to rescue his loved one. Quickly faced with a series of lethal obstacles, Danny finds little aid from the FBI, that he has to rely on his police instinct and the love for his wife to keep him going…
The film’s formula is rather very simple; relying on fast-paced sequences, wanton acts of irresponsible city-wide destruction that borders on the absurd to keep the audience glued to the screen. The film is essentially a chase film, with its lead character Danny Fisher going through the games set up by madman Miles Jackson. Director Renny Harlin’s “12 Rounds” touches on small elements resembling “Die Hard with a Vengeance” and even “Speed”. The movie isn’t so much as a practice of intricate storytelling but rather an exercise on how fast things will get blown up, get demolished while having a decent body count. If explosions aplenty, a rampaging street car, cars racing around the city, and a fire truck running amok is your thing, then this movie is for you. Harlin’s movie is full of adrenaline-pumping scenes that is aimed at overloading the sensory receptors to cover-up its outrageous plot.
Now for a film like this to succeed, the ‘rounds’ will have to have its sense of cleverness to generate thrills and suspense. Yes, some ’rounds’ are pretty good, although the manner of which they are executed do require a large suspension of disbelief. However, after the street car scene, some of the film’s elements take a turn for the awfully predictable, the film does begin to run out of momentum in the last act. Also, while I don’t really have an issue with some perfunctory elements (such as the FBI complicating Fisher’s operation instead of helping), scenes that require a heavy dose of disbelief (Danny is as fast as a BMW 740i) with dialogue so lacking in emotion, the film does lose gas. Plot missteps become more visible and whatever thrills it managed to generate started to wear a little thin. “12 Rounds” doesn’t really fulfill the wonderful machismo orchestrated by Schwarzenegger and Stallone--well, maybe it is better than Cena’s previous film “The Marine” and if we’re talking wrestler’s movies, “12 Rounds” doesn’t match the pure popcorn fun of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson‘s “The Rundown” or even “The Scorpion King“.
The cast itself is a mixed bag. Aidan Gillen is ok as the bad guy given the little stuff he had to work with. While decent, he wasn’t exactly convincing enough as a mad-genius. Te final encounter between him and the heroically suicidal Danny Fisher lacks the necessary “WOW” factor. The FBI team (includes Steve Harris) is a simple device to keep things complex. Too bad Ashley Scott didn’t get to strut seductively, it would’ve completed the film’s action formula. Fisher’s partner is a little too underused, which brings us to Cena himself; granted that the wrestler isn’t a trained actor and I am not expecting an Oscar-worthy performance, but I thought he properly exuded that certain necessary charisma to carry a film by himself but maybe the script dropped the ball. He does look physically capable, but there were several missed opportunities to generate some emotion and all they did with the scenes is to show anger, be flabbergasted--not even helped along with clever dialogue. I am not fan of his, but Cena did try--his acting wasn‘t exactly as ‘robotic‘ as Dolph Lundgren or JCVD.
“12 Rounds” would have held its own as a brainless actioner whose purpose is the consumption of massive amounts of popcorn but the last act was just a little too anti-climactic. Part of an action film’s success will have to be to bring forth sufficient impact in its climax to match the rest of the action sequences, on this the film falters in a major way. Harlin’s direction was energetic enough to keep me interested but sadly the screenplay lost me after the streetcar incident. “12 Rounds” isn’t a good film but it is somewhat fun and requires very little to no use of the brain. If you want to see action with little to nothing to think about, this film is for you.
Rent it! [2 Stars]
Video/Audio: 2.40 ratio anamorphic widescreen. The picture is a little on the softer side but it is very clean with very little enhancements. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is strong enough with this type of movie, although some parts should have been louder.
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