A WWE film doesn't necessarily leave a potential viewer with a favorably outlook of overall cinematic quality. While WWE Studios have financed a few odd choices ("Oculus" and "Dead Man Down" spring to mind), it's largely been a dumping ground for cheap direct-to-video offerings that range form mindless family fare, to a few continuing francishes in name only that serve as an attempt to launch the film careers of various superstars. Among the most notable WWE-centric franchises are "The Marine" (now in its fourth installment) and "12 Rounds". As with "The Marine", "12 Rounds" was an attempt to make one of the company's all time top stars, John Cena a crossover sensation (interstingly enough, Cena may have failed as an action star, but has found a possible niche as a funnyman as evidenced in his show stealing performance in "Trainwreck"). A sequel in name only, "12 Rounds: Lockdown" bestows the mantle of leading man to one of the company's most talented in-ring performers and one of the better "talkers" of the past decade, Dean Ambrose.
The premise of "12 Rounds: Lockdown" is thinly established and rich in cliche. Ambrose's Shaw is a detective supposedly rattled from the death of his partner (we wouldn't know this if it wasn't mentioned a dozen or so time in the first 15-minutes, as Ambrose's performance is a tad lackadasical), who stumbles across evidence that fellow detective Tyler Burke (Roger Cross, in a thankless role) and his junior detectives are, wait for it...crooked cops. Determined to not let his gravytrain of corruption and kickbacks end, Burke and his team put the station on lockdown, trapping Shaw with, you guessed it 12 rounds of ammo. A few casual executions of colleagues later and Burke has Shaw set up to take the fall.
If the idea of a wild cop facing an armed force in a secured building sounds familiar, you're probably thinking of "Die Hard" which "12 Rounds: Lockdown" shamelessly apes from start to finish for the most part, albiet on a substatinally lower budget and with a much less interesting cast. I mentioned earlier Roger Cross' work is thankless as Burke; I say this, because despite Ambrose's skill as a verbal performer in the WWE is wasted entirely in the film and its up to Cross' Burke to tuant Shaw via a PA system, bark orders to his goons, and threaten those caught in the middle. That's not to say Amrbose is entirely wasted in a mostly silent role; he makes for a fairly natural, B-movie action hero and his "lunatic fringe" in-ring persona is adapted well here as Shaw dispatches crooked cop after crooked cop traditionally and otherwise (I won't spoil what Shaw does with a tazer and dead henchman still clutching an MP5, but it's definitely signs that Shaw is possibly a little unhinged himself from reasons other than the stated PTSD).
Clocking in right around an hour-and-a-half, "12 Rounds: Lockdown" doesn't aspire to be much more than a small budget, straight-to-video "Die Hard" clone. It hits all the expected beats and for what it is, offers up some visceral action sequences. It does begin to wear thin in the final 20-minutes, when its "Die Hard" inspired sensibilities starts to wear thin and the less said about the somewhat sudden and mediocre ending the better. In the overall WWE Studios approach, "12 Rounds: Lockdown" stands as one of the better entries in its flagship franchises. If the script had lent itself to Ambrose having more to say and show his natural charisma, it might have been able to transcend the straight-to-video stigma of disposability and cement itself as a solid B-film. Instead, its just enough to satisfy those looking for fast, cheap action as well as those fans of Ambrose striving to see another side to their favorite in-ring performer. If "12 Rounds 4" manages to materialize and brings back Ambrose as Shaw, I can say enough goodwill carries over from "Lockdown" to sell me a ticket.
The 1080p 1.78:1 transfer is a little more than servicable. The often flat, uninspired cinematography is actually hampered by overly crisp detail, more oftne than not betrayain the locales as mere sets, instead of allowing the viewer to suspend disbelief that the compound of a police station that exists within the film is practical. Colors are cool throughout with a lot of greys, blues, and silvers faithfully recreated amidst a bevy of orange and yellow explosions. Contrast is a little overly stylyzed and not as faitfhful or realistic as one would expect.
The English 5.1 DTS-HD MA track has more than enough moments to highlight the film's incessant action. Surounds are used to great effect in a handful of scenes where Shaw is evading the film's cadre of villains pursuing him throughout the station, as well as when all Hell breaks looks, as it quite often does, when stealth fails Shaw. The low-end captures the more heavy duty firepower and series of explosions when necessary, while overall, the mix is never overly aggressive to drown out dialogue. English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are included.
The only extras are two brief (five minutes or so) featurettes, "Filming a Firefight" looks at some of the action choreography, while "Resourceful Advesary" highlights Shaw's improvisantional survival skills.
While "12 Rounds: Lockdown" might not be as flashy and grandiose as its John Cena helmed grandfather, it's definite improvement over the dismal sequel with Randy Orton as the lead. The film's frequent, chaotic action sequences are the real reason you're gonna want to give this one a go, as the plot is just enough to give the destruction that ensues over 90-minutes some sense of logic. Rent It.