Some movies would be so much better if they ended sooner. Take for example Minority Report. That movie was great, until you got to the point where it ended, when Tom Cruise was placed in the prison, and then it just kept going. Same thing with Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It was great until it ended, and then had six more endings after that. And those are just examples of movies that don't end when they should. There are also movies that just plain fall apart in the end, usually because the script takes some ridiculous third act turn that sends the whole thing into the toilet. Spike Lee's 25th Hour was like that. Hands down one of the worst endings in any movie I've ever seen. Now, while I would never compare director Renny Harlin's 12 Rounds, starring WWE superstar John Cena, to either Minority Report or Return of the King, I might go so far as to compare it to 25th Hour, because while it has some solid moments, the final reel is crap.
Cena stars as Danny Fisher, a New Orleans police officer that finds himself part of a major operation when he and his partner spot international terrorist Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen). During a shoot out with Jackson, Danny's partner, Hank Carver (Bryan White) takes a bullet in the ass, and their squad car doesn't fair any better, leaving our hero to chase after the bad guy on foot. Did I mention that Jackson and his girlfriend are in a speeding car, which miraculously is no match for Danny. When he finally catches up to them, he almost has them both, but Jackson's girlfriend tries to flee on foot, and gets splattered all over the road by a passing truck. One year later, the nefarious Jackson escapes from prison, and returns to seek revenge against Danny, who is now a detective. Kidnapping Danny's woman, Molly (Ashley Scott), the ingenious Jackson plans an elaborate set of challenges for Danny that if he should fail, will result in Molly's death. Soon, Danny is running all over the city trying to prevent the mayhem Jackson has planned, with each round of the sick game becoming more and more deadly.
12 Rounds is not really a good movie, so much as it is a bit of fun and brainless entertainment. The story is little more than an extended chase sequence, and you're into cars racing around the city, or a fire truck tearing down streets wrecking everything in its path, then this flick is likely to give you a boner. Because this is a Renny Harlin film, you get slick production, a fast pace, tons of stunts and explosions and most of the things that make boys of all ages go, "Wow. Cool." Of course, Harlin's films aren't always the most intellectually challenging works of cinema, but they serve their purpose as sensory stimulus to accompany the consumption of popcorn.
The problem with 12 Rounds--this is assuming you don't have a problem with the ridiculously over-the-top story (which I did not)--is that the movie falls apart in the final reel. The entire movie is an implausible bit of cinematic junk food, but it works for what it is. But as the movie barrels toward its climatic showdown between Danny and Jackson, the implausible shifts into utterly f***ing ridiculous, and you just want to scream, "I was with you all the way, but now you've gone too far!" I don't want to ruin anything for all of you that are clamoring to watch this movie, so let me just say "helicopter." When the helicopter is introduced into 12 Rounds, the movie takes a major dump.
Up until the terrible climax, 12 Rounds holds its own as a check-your-brain-at-the-door filmmaking. Cena, who made his big screen debut in The Marine (haven't seen it), turns in a competent performance. Not much of a fan of him as a wrestler, I wasn't expecting much from him as an actor. But I was pleasantly surprised by his acting skills and his ability to command the screen. Cena turns in a better performance than a lot of other action stars, including much of what Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren have done, and everything Steven Segal has done.
12 Rounds will never be mistaken for a great film, but up until the time the helicopter ruins everything, it is an entertaining movie. Fans of bombastic action flicks where things go fast and go boom will no doubt enjoy themselves (at least for most of the movie).
12 Rounds is presented in 2.39:1 widescreen. The disc I viewed was an advanced promotional screener, so I can't comment on the quality of the final product.
12 Rounds is presented in English in 5.1 Dolby Digital, as well as dubbed in Spanish and French 2.0, with optional subtitles in Spanish and French. The disc I viewed was an advanced promotional screener, so I can't comment on the quality of the final product.
There are two versions of the film on the disc, one is PG-13, the other is Unrated. I watched the Unrated version, but have no idea what the differences are, and really didn't see anything that was worthy of an R rating. There are two audio commentaries on the unrated version, one with director Renny Harlin, the other with John Cena and screenwriter Dan Kunka. Even if you really like the film, I can't imagine wanting to sit through both audio commentaries (that said, both are fine as far as commentaries go). "A Crash Course: John Cena Stunts" (10 min.) gives a bit of background on some of the action sequences, and we get to learn that Cena is deathly afraid of heights (which we learn again in the commentaries). "Never-Before-Cena Gag Reel" (5 min.) is just more behind the scenes stuff. There are also two alternate endings with optional commentary.
When all was said and done, I was more entertained by 12 Rounds than I was by either X-Men Origins: Wolverine or Terminator Salvation (which I know doesn't really amount to much). But if you're looking for some action that requires little use of the cerebral cortex, this movie should work for you.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]