Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: John Cena, Steve Harris, Aidan Gillen, Ashley Scott, and Brian White
Runtime: 108 min.
by Brian Eggert
Original Release Date:
12 Rounds harkens back to the era of 1980s and 1990s action flicks starring the likes of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Van Damme. The result contains all the necessary components, including cheesy one-liners, plenty of mindless violence, and at the center a beefy star. (Though, they left the inspirational rock ballad off the soundtrack.) The only problem is this particular star, professional wrestler John Cena. He has none of the personality of the aforementioned action heroes, and his lack of appeal does the story an injustice, however carbon-copied from previous material it may be.
During a botched FBI sting operation, New Orleans police officer Danny Fisher (Cena) happens on super-criminal Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen), catches him, and causes the inadvertent death of his sweetheart. A year later, Danny has made detective because of his bust, but Miles has escaped from prison and vows revenge. He blows up Danny’s house, kidnaps his girlfriend Molly (Ashley Scott), and tells Danny that he wants to play a game. How many times have you heard a kitschy movie terrorist say that before?
The game is the title. Danny has 12 assignments to carry out under Miles’ explicit instructions. If he refuses, Molly dies. If he fails, Molly dies. Of course, you can never assume a movie villain will keep his word, so reckless FBI Agent Aiken (Steve Harris) and Danny’s partner Hank (Brian White) are on his side, attempting to decipher Miles’ nefarious scheme. And just like those actioners from yesteryear, you can be sure Danny survives his missions, and in the end pummels the life out of the bad guy.
The degree to which 12 Rounds is a rip-off of Die Hard With a Vengeance boggles the mind. On every major point the plots sync up, making comparisons inevitable and impossible to avoid. Think about it… Both begin with a villain’s loved one being killed by a hero. That villain comes back to get revenge, putting the hero through a series of forced exercises in a heavily populated city. But these tasks are just a cover for an elaborate heist. And then, in the end, the conflict is resolved via helicopter.
Please don’t write me angry emails because I just spoiled the twist ending of this film. Instead, you should be writing the producers of this movie for spoiling the ending of Die Hard 3 for you! The comparisons are staggering, and since director Renny Harlin helmed Die Hard 2: Die Harder, but was passed over for the subsequent sequel, the similarities are even more curious. Perhaps this is Harlin’s latent way of finally directing another Die Hard movie. Then again, Harlin is the man behind such abysmally bad productions as Cutthroat Island, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and the Andrew Dice Clay vehicle The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. So another sloppy, derivative action movie from him isn’t surprising.
Made by the WWE, the producers of The Condemned, wrestling fans will probably enjoy the procession of PG-13 rated violence, not that I understand what drives wrestling fans. No doubt watching Cena run around like an angry shaved gorilla—smashing cars and saying lines like, “I’ngonna kill you!”—will inspire cheers in some. But action stars need more than muscle; they need personality and potential for weakness. However much 12 Rounds attempts to create a sympathetic character desperate to save his woman, he’s still impervious to harm. We never doubt for a moment that he’ll succeed.Maybe you’ll enjoy watching this hairless caveman sprint around and destroy stuff real good. Harlin at least captures the action with clarity, for the most part avoiding Hollywood’s current obsession with the Shakycam. But what the movie has in coherent movie violence, it lacks in innovation. Why endure a slapdash copy when the originals are so much more entertaining?