The SmarK DVD Rant for 12 Rounds

12 Rounds_DVD

I suppose that for people who watch him wrestle, it’s not hard to buy John Cena as a superhuman walking action movie cliché. After all, the guy went nearly an hour with Shawn Michaels and barely broke a sweat. However, in the first 15 minutes of this movie alone, he single-handedly chases down a car without even needing to stop for a drink of water. So obviously this movie is a throwback to the good old days of the ’80s, when men were men and movie villains had lots of downtime to plot elaborate revenge schemes.

I generally have a few favourite genres of movies from that era, and they fall under categories like Maniac Cop (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard), World Weary Cop v. Serial Killer (Seven, Silence of the Lambs) or Mad Bomber (Blown Away, Speed, Die Hard With a Vengeance). It is of course the third Die Hard that gives this movie its greatest influence, as the plot is mostly lifted wholesale from there. And it’s directed by Renny Harlin, who used to be one of my favourite directors and also did Die Hard 2, which I’m sure is no great coincidence. In fact there’s a lot of stuff from better movies all kind of crammed together in here, from the Irish bomber in Blown Away to a bit of John McClane in Cena’s Danny Fisher.

So the plot, which unfortunately we had to get to eventually, sees Danny Fisher accidentally catching international terrorist superstar Miles Jackson, by, you know, outrunning a car and arresting him after the FBI and an apparent international task force is unable to get their man. Unfortunately, Jackson’s girlfriend gets killed in the chase, and he’s obviously going to hold a grudge about that. ONE YEAR LATER, Jackson has escaped and immediately kidnaps Fisher’s girlfriend because he’s all about an eye for an eye. Luckily Fisher didn’t kill Jackson’s dog, too, because otherwise the pug introduced in the first act wouldn’t stand a chance.

The title of the movie comes from Jackson’s ridiculously elaborate (and I say this as a lifelong fan of James Bond movies, so you know this is a tad silly even for me) plot to destroy Fisher, as he starts simply by blowing up his car and house and then wants to kill his girlfriend as well. Unless, of course, Fisher jumps through a series of hoops for the villain, all of which involve vehicular mayhem and Fisher defying authority. Now I know that Hollywood romance is idealized, but once the guy has already bombed your house isn’t it time to cut your losses and let the professionals handle it? Do we really care that much about his dull girlfriend that it justifies all the property damage inflicted in the name of saving her? I mean, I don’t think the relationship could survive the massive guilt trip that he could justifiably lay on her afterwards. "What, I should take out the garbage? Sorry, my leg still hurts from when I single-handedly stopped a runaway street car to save your ass, honey."

Which brings me to the next problem here: The Bond villain plotting is pretty mundane stuff. I mean, at least in Die Hard 3 the nefarious plots were memorable. Remember the water jug puzzle? Here, the best the guy can come up with is cutting the safeties on an elevator or giving Danny a list of 5 phone numbers to call within a set time period. Really? And yeah, just like Die Hard, of course there’s more going on here than just revenge (and in fact it’s the EXACT SAME THING as Die Hard), although sometimes it’s more satisfying when it really is about revenge. Of course, if someone like Miles Jackson has the omniscient ability to control every aspect of the situation like he does here, why not just…you know, never mind, it’s easier with a movie like this just to go with it. I’ll just say that if you can get over the plot ripped out of Die Hard with the villain from Speed and the Big Twist Montage from Saw and John Cena’s brutally wooden acting style, this is an enjoyable enough use of two hours that probably won’t feel like a total waste of time. Well except for the absolutely ludicrous final fight scene between Danny and Miles, which was like something out of a action movie spoof complete with a big finish that would have instantly killed the hero and his girlfriend.

But hey, I’ve seen worse. Like The Marine.

As usual with Fox, this is a screener disc rather than the actual one, so I can’t really comment on video quality, but the Dolby 5.1 was pretty impressive for such a cheaply made piece of crap. As for bonus features, the disc features both the unrated and theatrical cuts (the unrated one features Cena saying "fuck" a couple of times), as well as commentaries from Renny Harlin and Cena himself. The Cena one ventures into self-parody at times, as it’s mostly about himself and very rarely about the movie. I half-expected the Harlin one to describe how he was living on the street until Vince McMahon rescued him and then forced him to direct this movie as payback, but sadly it’s a bit more mundane than that. You also get a featurette on the stunts, a gag reel with Cena, and a pair of alternate endings, neither of which provide the great one-liner that this movie so desperately needed.

The Pulse

This might be surprising to hear after the scathing review, but I’d call it a satisfying rental for action fans who have already watched their copies of the Die Hard movies too many times recently. It’s got all the explosions and silly beats you’ve come to expect from the genre, and Cena is certainly believable as a superman cop who can survive all the un-survivable bullshit that this movie puts him through. Just don’t expect anything GOOD, though.

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