One could argue that nobody wanted or needed a sequel to John Cena's 12 Rounds, but I suppose if the WWE is so set on making films, it's almost efficient of them to keep gathering them under the same franchise umbrellas rather than making new ones. There is, of course, no connection whatsoever to Cena's movie and this one, other than the villain's game involving 12 rounds, which become much murkier as the movie continues, or perhaps, as my attention span slowly runs out (in fact, for a few minutes, it feels more like a Saw knock-off than an action movie). That, and both films are paint-by-numbers Die Hard knock-off knock-offs -- you know, not the ones that necessarily rip off McTiernan's original movie, but are the logical extrapolation of the movies that did do that.
Let's assume the paint-by-numbers nature of the plot doesn't matter so much, or at least set it aside and come back to it later. Is Orton a leading man? Not really. Although he's arguably less wooden than Cena, he lacks the obvious charisma of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, or even the personality of someone like the late Randy "Macho Man" Savage. Lord knows why the WWE keeps writing screenplays that stick their big, bold, to-the-back-row-of-the-arena performers into completely uninteresting, generic leading man parts. Less than 24 hours after watching the film, it's hard to come up with a single character trait or defining characteristic of Orton's character. Hell, it's hard to remember the guy's name. Orton's co-star, Tom Stevens, is reasonably charismatic in a tweaker sidekick role too many young actors would overplay, but he's pretty much the only actor in the movie who makes an impression.
So, how about the action? Director Roel Reiné has made a name for himself in direct-to-video action movies, helming a couple of Death Race sequels, The Scorpion King 3, and even The Marine 2, another DTV Cena sequel. I'll grant that Reiné shoots clean action that is easy to follow, and he doesn't get wrapped up in trying to show off (the sense that some directors think they're above DTV is palpable). Still, the word for the car chases and fight sequences in 12 Rounds 2 is perfunctory. Without any investment in the characters and their situation or some sort of hook to the fights, none of it registers. Each action beat is just included in the hopes that the film will approximate the sensation of seeing a real movie, complete with explosions and cars flipping (and a pointless topless scene, which feels like outright bribery).
I expected 12 Rounds 2 to stink, but it doesn't. Instead, it's something worse. It's technically competent but not the least bit creative, an action movie so painfully paint-by-numbers that the finished painting is of a paint-by-numbers grid. At no point during any of the movie's 94 minutes is there ever a surprise, a shred of tension or excitement, or any other form of emotional investment in anything that happens to any of these characters. The only two interesting aspects of the entire film are its fast pace (kudos to the editor for that one), and the fact that the villain tries to kill a guy by having him slowly buried in sand...or is it sugar? Not even one of the movie's two most interesting moments could keep my attention for very long.
The Video and Audio
A DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is much more exciting than the picture. I've often complained about direct-to-video action sounding like direct-to-video action thanks to the mix, and although 12 Rounds 2 has a long list of shortcomings, the mix is not one of them. Explosions and gunfire have a nice weight, and the car chases sound as good as something intended to appear on the big screen. The overall audio may be a little more sparse than a full-blooded theatrical mix, but this high-def track still delivers a healthy amount of the aural fireworks that an action track ought to have. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish and French subtitles are also included.
The disc wraps up with an audio commentary by Reiné and editor Radu Ion. A sampling of roughly 20 minutes reveals a surprising lean toward technical information about the challenges of a cheap, fast shoot. Not sure why 20th Century Fox thought a DTV action movie really needed an audio commentary, but it's surprising they didn't spring to get Orton on the track as well, to make it more interesting for WWE fans. As it is, this technical track seems like it'd be most interesting to someone else shooting a similar DTV movie.
A promo for Blu-Ray and trailers for A Good Day to Die Hard and Broken City play before the main menu.