Fox // 2009 // 108 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 13th, 2009
Stick through all 12. It's worth it.
Wrestling superstar John Cena (The Marine) headlines the latest WWE Studios production and the result is a surprisingly good time.
Cena is Danny Fisher, a New Orleans police officer who stumbles upon a massive FBI operation and ends up single-handedly capturing one the most dangerous terrorists on the planet, an a-hole named Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen, The Wire) who pledges to unleash a world of hurt on Fisher and his family one day.
That day comes one year later when Miles escapes prison, kidnaps Danny's wife, and sends him on a nightmare tour of New Orleans, forcing him to play a lethal game where there will be exploding cars, one dead fat guy, a runaway trolley car, a fistfight inside an out-of-control helicopter, several improvised explosive devices, lots of running and screaming, and sweat.
You want a solid action movie to watch over the weekend? Here you go. 12 Rounds won't win any Academy Awards or get mentioned on any best-of lists, but what it sets out to accomplish -- blast out unrelenting action for 90 minutes straight -- it succeeds. Really, if you're hankering for a fast-paced flick that won't nuke your brains, John Cena is ready to service you.
The concepts are all very familiar, with ingredients from Die Hard with a Vengeance, Patriot Games, and Metro, but the execution is so well-done and the twists placed on the genre conventions cool enough to separate 12 Rounds from the gallons of fisticuffs mediocrity buttressing it on the rental shelf. Danny Fisher, for example, is a badass Alpha male on a mission to rescue his girl. But he needs help and receives it from both the cops and the FBI, thankfully sparing us from the "Rogue Cop on the Run" routine. In fact, how's this for a twist on the game plan: the Feds are actually helpful and decent in this movie!
Cena is a physically dominating tower of a dude, whose acting is just fine for what's asked of him. He's got to look concerned about his lady friend and then switch between despairing and enraged, as the script dictates, and does so like a champ. This guy has a legit future in the action game. His villain counterpart is Aidan Gillen, a solid bad guy and general weasel who you'll enjoy seeing walloped when the time comes. Any time someone from The Wire gets the big-screen love, I'm all for it. Several other recognizable faces round out the cast, and no one phones it in for the paycheck. Brian White (Tavon from The Shield) is Danny's committed partner, a relationship that actually adds some solid emotional weight to the film. Steve Harris (Quarantine) is a badass Fed, and Ashley Scott (Strange Wilderness) is the damsel in distress. Behind the camera is action vet Renny Harlin who shoots his action straight-up, doing a marvelous job keeping the pace rocketing along at Mach 5.
There are, of course, deficiencies. A big reveal fundamentally alters everything that came before it and is best not dwelt upon. The final fight scene is bombastic and brutal, but swamped with "why didn't he do that?!" moments -- Dude, just throw him out of the freakin' helicopter! Also, the ending is stupid.
On Blu-ray, the film sings. The 2.39:1 widescreen isn't eye-popping with HD sheen, but the improvement is certainly there. With so much frenetic action going down, the enhanced resolution adds plenty. Those fireballs and explosions look especially beautiful. The standout tech is the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, a hugely aggressive mix that has tons to do and will make your neighbors either jealous or furious. A truckload of extras include both the unrated version and original theatrical release; commentaries from Renny Harlin, John Cena, and writer Daniel Kunka; two alternate endings which are no less lame; a series of featurettes looking at the stunts, the music, and the big streetcar set-piece; a selection of 12 behind-the-scenes segments; interviews with Harlin and Cena; a gag reel; and a digital copy. It's a good set.
WWE Studios is onto something. Keep it coming boys!
Not Guilty. (Insert John Cena's WWE catch-phrase here.)
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Theatrical and Unrated Versions
* Alternate Endings
* Gag Reel
* Viral Videos
* Digital Copy