July 9, 2009

Blu-ray Review: 12 Rounds - Extreme Cut

The latest WWE venture into the world of bog screen cinema is 12 Rounds, the second such film to star multiple time WWE wrestling champion John Cena. The first was The Marine. This might as well be the same film. Both films feature kidnapped girlfriends and Cena running roughshod in his attempts to rescue the damsel in distress. There is nothing particularly special about either film, and it was pretty safe to skip them during their respective theatrical runs. I mean, it is not like you are in danger of missing a potential Oscar nominee. Of course, I have seen both in the theater, and enjoyed both to a certain extent.

12 Rounds plays out like a mash up of Speed and Die Hard with a Vengeance. It seriously feels just like the Die Hard sequel. You have a bad guy with a plan and a the intelligence to pull it off, giving the hero orders, telling him what to do or something bad will happen. What follows is the hero's mad dash through the streets to prevent that bad thing from happening. Will he succeed? I guess he would have to, otherwise this low-aiming film will be a serious disappointment.

John Cena stars as Danny Fisher, an officer for the New Orleans Police Department. One night, while on patrol with his partner, he is called into a pursuit to aid the FBI as they chase down an international fugitive arms dealer Miles Jackson, played by Aidan Gillen. The chase results in Danny being the hero, with the bad guy in custody. The only problem is that the chase resulted in the death of of the bad guy's girlfriend, and he has a long memory.

We jump forward a year, Danny is now a detective and living with his girlfriend (Ashley Scott) in a house that is in need of a lot of work. However, that is not the story. The story is that Miles has escaped from prison and has his eyes set on Danny, revenge is on his mind. To that end, Miles kidnaps Danny's girl and sets up a series of tests, twelve rounds of them (clever, no?). Miles calls Danny, tells him what needs to be done, what the consequences are, and how long he has to complete the task. Danny then takes this information and acts upon it accordingly.

While the action is fast and furious, there is never any real sense of danger as we move through the various rounds. Why? Well, there are twelve of them, why should we get all tense in the early rounds? It has to be assumed that we are going to make it all the way to the twelfth, otherwise the title will make no sense. Plus, this is clearly meant to be a crowd pleaser, so the hero is going to have to come out on top. With this information being a given, there isn't much of a reason to watch the movie, right? Correct, but I still think it is worth taking a look at, of only under the proper circumstances.

What are those circumstances? Late night cable or a rental for a slow night. The movie brings to mind action films of the 1980s with the big muscle bound hero taking on the bad guy through brute force. It is corny, cheesy, not terribly well acted or directed, and the screenplay offers no depth at all. It does not rise to the level the best of that era had to offer, but it is entertaining enough to hold your attention for a couple of hours. If you come across it and enjoy goofy action films, this will be right up your alley. On that level it is sort of fun.

Renny Harlin is the man behind the camera and has had a career filled with this sort of movie. Just look at Die Hard 2: Die Harder, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Cliffhanger, Driven, Mindhunters, the list goes on. This movie fits right in with that line up.

John Cena is a decent enough action star. He has a certain screen charisma and natural ability, but they would need someone with more skills than Harlin to focus them into. Still, he is likable and does a good job of focusing the audience's attention for this movie.

This disk is labeled as an "Extreme Edition" and the featured cut runs about two minutes longer, although I am hard pressed to tell you what was different. Nothing really stood out to me as different from the theatrical.

Audio/Video. The video, presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, generally looks pretty good. There is a fair amount of film grain present, particularly in the night sequences. Despite this, there is still a good level of detail. Fast action is smooth and the explosions look pretty solid. It is a not the best looking Blu-ray I have seen, but it is definitely a step up from DVD!

The audio is rock solid. Listen to the roar of the Camaro during round 3, also of note is the trolley sequence, and the elevator fall. The explosions and engine roars have real substance, while everything else is always nice and clear. Not quite reference material, but definitely solid.

Extras. This release comes with a few bonus materials to check out.
  • Commentary. This track features Renny Harlin and judging by what he says, you would think they are making the greatest action film ever. Still, he is proud of his work and everyone should be, otherwise why do it? He does offer up plenty of interesting information about the shoot and is worth a peek by the curious.
  • Streetcar Crossing: Film with Caution. This covers the shooting of the trolley sequence. It is a big action scene and this shows the amount of work that went into making the scene work, not to mention the logistics with shutting down New Orleans' mains roadway.
  • A Crash Course: John Cena Stunts. This takes a look a the stunts of the film and the training that John Cena went through to make them work.
  • Never Before Cena Gag Reel. Pretty much what you would expect flubbed lines and goofy behind the scenes bits.
  • Keeping Score: The Music of 12 Rounds. This is pretty cool. Being a fan of film scores, it is interesting to see this part of the process. Trevor Rabin is the film's composer and the music is actually pretty good.
  • Round and Round with Renny and John. Funny, they comment on the similarities between Cena and Matt Damon. This featurette is comprised of interview footage with both Cena and Harlin on and around the set. It is pretty funny, especially Cena's impression of Renny.
  • Bonus Rounds. A series of shorter featurettes covering topics such as development of the concept, weapons training, the cars, and more.
  • Alternate Endings. There are a couple of different endings. One features another guy on the roof after getting out of the pool, the other has a longer conversation with the couple in the hot tub. Nothing special or terribly different.
  • Viral Videos. The movie has a couple viral videos. One centers on the size of Cena's hands and the need for a hand model, it is actually pretty funny. The other concerns the helicopter and an unfortunate explosion.

Bottomline. Not a great movie, not by a long shot, but still has its moments and on a B-level is actually decent. You can poke holes in the plot, mock the script, guffaw at the performances, and not be bored for a couple of hours. It also has a decent selection of extras that are worth checking out. Rent it, watch it on cable, it works as a time waster.

Mildly Recommended.


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