April 8, 2009

Movie Review: 12 Rounds

12rounds1_largeIf nothing else, Vince McMahon, chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., is always looking for new ways to expand his brand. There was the purchase of WCW and ECW, followed by the relaunching of said brands, this did not turn out as planned, although the ECW re-launch is still going. Then there was the XFL debacle, where a new football league was formed and subsequently folded. It was most notable for giving us a player named "He Hate Me" and some genuinely inventive new camera angles. Still searching for something, Vince got involved with Hollywood, first getting in as a co-producer on films such as The Scorpion King and The Rundown before setting up shop under the WWE Studios (formerly WWE Films) banner. Their latest offering stars wrestler John Cena and is a followup to his 2006 debut The Marine.

12 Rounds is a straightforward actioner that does not break any new ground and is barely enough to hold ones attention for its duration. It was directed by Renny Harlin, a director who has been around the block but is not known for pushing the envelope. Generally, he turns in workmanlike action pictures that infrequently attain a following, this includes the likes of Cliffhanger and The Long Kiss Goodnight.

12roundspic3The story opens with the FBI hot on the trail of a renowned terrorist currently operating in New Orleans. As the chase intensifies a call goes out for assistance from NOPD, of which Danny Fisher (John Cena) is the first to respond. What follows is a wild chase through a residential neighborhood. As the race comes to a close a dangerous face off ensues between our bad guy and our hero. The result lands the bad guy in jail, the good guy a hero, and the bad guy's girl dead in a tragic accident. It is this accident that provides the primary thrust for the rest of the film.

Now, if you have seen Die Hard with a Vengeance or Speed, you have a good idea where this is heading. You have a crazed killer with a vendetta against a heart of gold hero who is nigh unstoppable as he attempts to save the day. In the case of 12 Rounds, the battle between good and evil is framed with a 12 round gimmick (duh!). Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen), our bad guy, has kidnapped Fisher's fiancee (Ashley Scott) and is challenging Fisher to 12 round battle to save her. He must do everything he says, and succeed, in order to have the opportunity to win her back.

12roundspic1Considering the title, there is little chance this match up will go less than the full 12, so settle in for the ride. Also, there is the need for a little spice, so bring in an FBI agent (Steve Harris) to try and throw a wrench in Fisher's attempts to get his girl and win the day. To top it off, Miles has ulterior motives for his 12 round fight, motives that materialize in the latter third of the film, although never become entirely clear.

This is not the sort of film that is trying to push any boundaries, stretch any limits or provide anything more than a serviceable action film. To that end it is a moderate success. It will not win any points for originality or intelligence, but it does keep the action moving along. There are very few moments where you are allowed to catch your breath, by the time one round ends, the next begins and Danny Fisher is off to the races.

The are a couple of areas where points are won. First off the action is relentless, not always great, but it keeps coming and it is needed to keep the audience involved. I know, that is rather shaky reasoning, but it is apt. Then there is our star, John Cena. The guy does not have the natural charisma or acting skills of Dwayne Johnson, but the man does deliver a likable onscreen persona. He can do action convincingly and comes across as a good guy that you want to root for. It is the audience's ability to like Cena truly carries the feature and makes it watchable at all.

Bottomline. When it comes right down to it, 12 Rounds is a mediocre action vehicle aimed at getting John Cena fans to the theater. I cannot say it is a good film, but it is not completely terrible. It is the sort of movie that if you stumble across it in the middle of the night on cable, you could ind yourself watching.

Not Recommended.


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