Screenwriters: Daniel Kunka
Starring: John Cena, Aidan Gillen, Ashley Scott, Brian J. White, Steve Harris, Gonzalo Menendez
Running time: 107 mins
Remember all those action movies you loved in the '90s but were too scared to admit? 12 Rounds is like them but much, much worse. Not even likeable on a guilty pleasure level, it chugs along without an original thought in its head, lifting beats from the Die Hard franchise, Speed and contracting Paul Greengrassitis (symptoms include restive camera work and lots of tight close-ups) along the way. Supervising this epic dud is Renny Harlin, the former blockbuster impresario who fell out of favour in Hollywood after Cutthroat Island misfired at the box office. With WWE star John Cena delivering a planktastic performance in the lead role, there are barely any redeeming qualities in this defective adrenalizer.
Events are set in motion when New Orleans police officer Danny Fisher and his partner Hank Carver foil a heist involving arms dealer and all-round nasty man Miles Jackson (Gillen). Jackson's girlfriend is killed in the arrest, leaving him to steam in prison plotting his revenge. A year later, with Fisher and Carver now promoted to detectives, Jackson finds a way out of incarceration and kidnaps the hero's girlfriend Molly (Scott). Laying down a gauntlet of 12 challenges, Fisher must beat the deadly tasks in front of him to save Molly's life.
12 Rounds's awful script asks Cena to escape from a plummeting elevator, prevent a bomb exploding on a bus and halt a runaway tram - why steal from one action flick when you can nick from several? There's also a European evil genius villain in the mould of Die Hard antagonists Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons. We're reliably informed that he's a genius when he stops midway through his botched opening heist to play, and win, a game of chess. Perhaps if he hadn't been diverted he would've escaped capture and we'd have been spared this dreadful movie.
Cena, who looks like Matt Damon inflated with a bicycle pump, is dead weight as the hero. It's a mystery as to why a wrestler, someone who's made a career out of showmanship, is lumbered with an "everyman" role. Bruce Willis's John McClane had marital problems and a receding hairline to contend with, Cena is a giant walking muscle who never appears vulnerable. In fairness, he's perfectly capable as an overpaid stuntman, it's only when he's called upon to charge a scene with emotion that he flounders.
12 Rounds's familiarity undercuts any kind of suspense it hopes to build, and for an action-packed romp it's incredibly dull. Its dozen-round premise means it's episodic and never truly hits a rhythm. Harlin is no cinematic alchemist, so it's hardly surprising that he fails to salvage anything from Daniel Kunka's repetitive, humourless script. The whole enterprise feels like a direct-to-video concoction left over from the '90s action oeuvre. 12 Rounds? This film has about 11 too many.
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