MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
John Cena as DANNY FISHER
Aidan Gillen as MILES JACKSON
Ashley Scott as MOLLY PORTER
Steve Harris as GEORGE AIKEN
Brian J. White as HANK CARVER
Gonzalo Menendez as RAY SANTIAGO
Studio: Fox Atomic
Directed by: Renny Harlin
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Danny Fisher (John Cena) is a New Orleans police officer who helps take down international terrorist Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen). Unfortunately, in the process, Jackson’s girlfriend is killed. One year later, Jackson escapes from prison, kidnaps Danny’s girlfriend Molly (Ashley Scott) and coerces Danny into a dangerous game where he has to accomplish twelve different feats in order to save Molly.
WHAT I LIKED
Ever since Renny Harlin appeared on the American cinematic scene, I have loved his films. Where some folks are apologists to Michael Bay and will forgive him all of his indiscretions of bad writing and terrible characters, I apologize for Renny Harlin. I loved his colossal bombs like “Cutthroat Island” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” although I will admit he has really fallen into a slump with films like “Driving” and “Deep Blue Sea.”
Still, as a fast-food action director, Renny Harlin still delivers a fun movie. I have a soft spot for his movies as I do for the films of Paul Verhoeven and Roland Emmerich. In this respect, Harlin delivers a solid, kick-ass action movie with “12 Rounds.”
The best parts of this film are the action sequences. Like Michael Bay, Harlin lays on the action thick, landing spectacular practical stunts and explosive chases. In “12 Rounds,” it’s a blast to watch a runaway cable car and an exploding helicopter. This is where Harlin scores big.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Like many of Michael Bay’s films, everything else about “12 Rounds” is not nearly as good as the action scenes. John Cena is trying to break into acting, but he really doesn’t have the finesse yet to bring his otherwise charismatic personality out of the screen. I wouldn’t expect a Rock-like ascension into A-list status.
On the same level, Aidan Gillen makes a rather lousy villain. Sure, he’s the smartest man in the world, but he just never comes across as threatening. I once heard someone criticize “Lethal Weapon 3” because it had a bad villain, and the same goes for “12 Rounds.” No matter how good your hero is, a movie is only as strong as its villain. And while Gillen delivers a ruthless bad guy, he’s just weak and flat on his delivery.
Finally, “12 Rounds” at times seems to be a simple retread of “Die Hard with a Vengeance.” The key points are the same, including the fact that the bad guy leads the hero on wild goose chases. Even the final goal of the villain and his roundabout way of achieving it is the same as Jeremy Irons’ character in the third “Die Hard” film.
Where “12 Rounds” falters in plot and character, it makes up for itself in a pretty strong Blu-ray release. First of all, this is the kind of film you want for a Blu-ray experience, with all the explosive action and powerful soundtrack. However, the special features also make this disc stand out.
Both the theatrical version of the movie and the unrated version are available on the disc, with two commentary tracks on the unrated version. One features director Renny Harlin, and the other features writer Daniel Kunka with actor John Cena (who has more personality on the commentary than he does in the film).
Two alternative takes on the ending are included with similar commentaries, and a gag reel is edited together rather well. There’s a slew of featurette, including twelve interstitials called “Bonus Rounds.” Other featurettes include a spotlight on the streetcar chase, a look at the stunt driving, some information on the music of the film and a tete-a-tete with John Cena and Renny Harlin.
On a lighter note, there are two viral videos used to promote the film, which show Cena is his more comfortable role as a comedic actor.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of John Cena and Renny Harlin apologists like myself.