A lot of people will have written off 12 Rounds simply on the basis it’s from WWE Studios. Others, unaware of Vince’s non-wrestling project, will simply dismiss it because it stars “that wrestler guy”. These assertions are unfair, as it creates a judgemental attitude before the opening credits have begun running. Anyone putting this into their DVD/Blu-Ray player and expecting dramatic acting on a par with Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken in True Romance is going to be disappointed. For the rest of us, who realise that sometimes, just sometimes, movies can be switch-off-your-brain-and-enjoy AND entertaining, the running time flies past in a blur of action scenes that seem structurally logical in comparison to other, more revered, action fare.
Rated: 15 (UK); PG-13 (US)
Running time: 108mins
John Cena – Det. Danny Fisher
Aidan Gillen – Miles Jackson
Ashley Scott – Molly Porter
Steve Harris – Special Agent George Aiken
Brian J. White – Det. Hank Carver
Gonzalo Menendez – Special Agent Ray Santiago
Taylor Cole – Erica Kessen
Kyle Russell Clements – Dave Fisher
Peter Navy Tuiasosopo – Willie Dumaine
Travis Davis – Anthony Deluso
Nick Gomez – Samuel
Brian Stanton – FBI Agent Gator
Rosalind Rubin – FBI Agent Sheila
Billy Slaughter – Technician
Kim Collins – Phil the Plumber
The movie kicks off with Office Danny Fisher (Cena) kissing his partner, Molly Porter (Scott), goodbye and then starting his shift with the New Orleans Police Department, where, on a routine drive around the area, he and his partner receive a request for assistance in the pursuit of wanted weapons trafficker, Miles Jackson. Accidentally crossing paths with Jackson’s escape vehicle, Fisher ends up chasing the car in an adrenaline-fuelled foot chase, eventually apprehending the criminal… with his girlfriend (who was in the vehicle also) getting accidentally killed when she tries to flee and is hit by a truck.
Fast-forward to one year later. Fisher has been, alongside his partner (who got shot in the earlier chase), been promoted to Detective. Unfortunately, Miles Jackson has escaped his prison and wants to settle the score with the man who put him behind bars. To this end, he kidnaps Molly and forces Danny to “play a game called 12 Rounds”, a series of dangerous challenges that, if successful, will bring him closer to saving the love of his life, but, if he fails, the consequences will be severe. What follows is a jump from one set-piece to another, but it’s done with such style (both visually and thematically), that you can’t help but be suckered in for the ride.
Renny Harlin (who has an awesome action pedigree, having directed, among others Die Hard II, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Covenant and Deep Blue Sea) crafts a decent action movie, which, while the comparisons to Die Hard With a Vengeance are somewhat warranted, has enough originality and knowing winks to make it all work and come together to a thudding climax.
Also, the writers deserve a huge amount of credit for avoiding the almost universal action-movie clichés that usually plague this type of film. There’s no “one of the good guys is really a bad guy” twist (which, usually, is telegraphed in the first two minutes of them being on screen) and the peripheral characters, especially Phil the Plumber and Willie Dumaine, are, no pun intended, well-rounded, even if they’re only on screen for a few minutes.
Cena did his own stunts for the majority of the movie (including stunt driving) and he is really put through the mill on a number of occasions. His nemesis, Miles Jackson, is played beautifully by Aiden Gillen, although the accent does seem to flip between Irish, American and Australian at various points. By the nature of the beast, these two have little actual screen time together, but one scene on a bus is actually quite tension filled.
A lot of people won’t like this movie, with some of them determined not to like this movie, simply because it stars a pro-wrestler. I’ve enjoyed every one of the movies WWE Studios have released on their own (with See No Evil being my favourite) and this is a fine addition to the ranks. The acting is of a good standard, the $20million budget is all on the screen and characters feel organic and real, which, for a dumb action movie, makes a nice change.
There are two main extras on the DVD release. The first is a gag-reel which is actually more of a look behind the scenes than an out-and-out gag-fest. The second comprises of two alternate endings, neither of which really change the tone or the outcome, but are a nice enough. Also included are links to a pair of Fox websites.
An above-average action movie that has the pedigree of Renny Harlin behind it (and yes, I am aware he’s also directed some duds), a good villain, great action scenes, a refreshing lack of obvious twists and a good turn from the lead actors. Ashley Scott is wasted a little as she doesn’t actually have that much to do, but the pace is that fast, you don’t really notice.
If you enjoy a good action movie that doesn’t make you think too much, then this is right up your alley.