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12 Rounds

12 Rounds

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

RENNY Harlin’s unashamedly old school action thriller 12 Rounds is a mindless guilty pleasure that almost provides wrestling star John Cena with a perfect entry point into movies. Almost…

Unfortunately, while undoubtedly explosive fun in places, the film can’t mask the fact that Cena makes for a pretty wooden leading man, or that it’s a little too derivative of better action movies.

The plot is simple. When New Orleans police detective Danny Baxter (Cena) stops terrorist mastermind and thief Miles Jackson (Aiden Gillen) from getting away with a multi-million-dollar heist, he also accidentally becomes involved in the killing of Jackson’s girlfriend.

One year later, Jackson escapes from prison and enacts his revenge, taking Danny’s girlfriend (Scott) hostage and taunting the cop with a series of near-impossible puzzles and tasks.

Over the course of 12 rounds Danny must therefore find a way to compete in order to save the one he loves.

On the plus side, 12 Rounds benefits from the presence of a director who is a past master at working within the action genre, having previously been responsible for the likes of Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Cliffhanger and Deep Blue Sea.

But while the action is competent and suitably OTT in a celebratory Friday night popcorn kind of way, it also borrows a little too heavily from the likes of Speed, Die Hard: With A Vengeance and even Eddie Murphy vehicle Metro when a little more invention would have gone a long way.

Cena, too, lacks much charisma and is hopelessly one-note, especially when placed against the far more charismatic Gillen, whose villain gets the pick of the movie’s best exchanges (the actor is previously best known for his work on TV’s The Wire). That said, Cena isn’t a terrible presence to be around and his uncertainty almost adds to the authenticity of his character’s predicament.

Taken at face value, 12 Rounds provides plenty of bang for your buck and is refreshingly CG-free in terms of stunts and set pieces. Die hard fans of the genre should enjoy ticking off the innumerable references.

But it lags some way behind the best that the genre has to offer and in spite of maintaining a tremendous energy on-screen, feels more than a little lazy thematically. Treat it as a guilty pleasure, though, and you should have a blast.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 107mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release Date: October 12, 2009