In case you’re wondering about the title, nope, it’s not about boxing, and it’s not about ammunition. But don’t worry, this standard action-thriller has got plenty of fighting and even more bullets. It’s also got former wrestling champ John Cena in the lead.
In case you’re wondering about the title, nope, it’s not about boxing, and it’s not about ammunition. But don’t worry, this standard action-thriller has got plenty of fighting and even more bullets.
It’s also got former wrestling champ John Cena in the lead (his second time, after “The Marine”), as Danny Fisher, a cop who, after putting away a villainous arms dealer-turned hot diamond dabbler, is made detective. A year goes by before he realizes he must pay a price for that promotion.
Nutshell plot: The wife of bad guy Miles (Aidan Gillen) is accidentally mowed down by a car (a great visual effect) during his capture. A year later, he escapes from prison, calls Danny, says, “You killed the love of my life,” then, with a honkin’ big chip on his shoulder, announces that he’s kidnapped Danny’s girlfriend Molly (Ashley Scott). If he ever wants to see her again, Danny must play Miles’ “game” of 12 Rounds (ahh, that title).
Here’s where two things happen: The explosions begin, as do a series of nods to (rip-offs of) “Die Hard: With a Vengeance,” aka “Die Hard 3,” the Bruce Willis film in which a terrorist has a cop running around New York playing a deadly “game.”
This time the running around takes place in New Orleans. Miles keeps in contact with Danny via phone (“Die Hard 3”) and causes random mayhem all over the city (“DH3” yet again).
Cena’s definitely got a load of charisma, which he regularly displays in WWE wrestling rings, but here he uses whatever acting chops he’s got to stay grim and determined, all the while running at full tilt.
Directly opposite from his performance is Gillen’s Miles, who’s presented as calm and almost gleeful.
There’s not much good dialogue, but it is kind of fun to hear Danny say on the phone to Miles, “I’m gonna find you. I’m gonna hunt you down and then I’m gonna kill you.” This is followed shortly by Molly saying right to Miles’ face, “He’s gonna win (the game) and then he’s gonna kill you.”
It should be no surprise that these lines are accompanied by relentless action and constantly moving cameras, by really busy editing, more and more explosions, SWAT teams left and right, and practically everyone taking a turn at driving dizzily through crowded streets.
But as this study in communication and miscommunication wends its way toward a requisite wild climax, a few surprises are thrown in. Too bad they’re mostly negative.
As Miles gets looser and more brazen in his evil machinations, Danny lets it be known that he’s an expert in the art of deduction — able to figure out the most convoluted clues without breaking a sweat (Come to think of it, he doesn’t sweat after all that running, either). And he just happens to know all there is to know about longitudes and latitudes, air conditioning and power sources for trolleys.
“12 Rounds” was directed by Renny Harlin, the Finnish fellow who’s given us “Cliffhanger,” “Deep Blue Sea” and, oops, “Die Hard 2.” The point is, even though he leans toward the hack side of making action films, he is pretty good at handling the action part of them.
But there’s a runaway trolley sequence in “12 Rounds” that goes on forever, negating any tension that was supposed to carry the scene. Renny should have known better.
The film runs 108 minutes. But at the 95-minute mark, a whole new plot that “explains” everything is introduced. A ludicrous idea at best.
But hey, it’s an action thriller. Forget about things making sense. There’s only a few minutes left. For heaven’s sake, somebody cue the helicopter.
12 ROUNDS Rated PG-13 (sequences of violence and action). With John Cena, Aidan Gillen. Written by Daniel Kunka. Directed by Renny Harlin. 2 stars.
The Patriot Ledger