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12 Rounds Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Wednesday, 27 May 2009 12:58
Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Michael Cena, Aidan Gillen, Ashley Scott 
Certificate: 12A

Poor old Danny Fisher (Cena). Not only has his wife been kidnapped by an escaped convict, but he's got to complete 12 Herculean tasks to get her back alive. If only he wasn't such a nice, honest guy. If only he hadn't chased down Miles Jackson (Gillen), inadvertently leading to the death of Miles' girlfriend. If only Miles wasn't so crazy and hellbent on revenge. If only Molly (Scott) was home safely, wrapped in Danny's butch arms. That's a lot of of 'if's for one man's head. Which would explain why he constantly looks confused, like a dazed rabbit in the headlights of a minibus filled with war veterans.


But bless Michael Cena, he's only a wrestler. Aiming to emulate The Rock's transfer from ring to screen, he runs, he jumps, he piledrives his way through cars, buildings, elevators and children - well, maybe not children. But truth be told, he's no Dwayne Johnson. Gazing around him as buses collide with trains, his lack of charisma puts him closer to a cardboard cut-out of Mark Wahlberg. Clocks tick, trams veer out of control and lots of things blow up. And all the while Danny is on the phone to Miles, following his every instruction. It's Die Hard 3, but not as good.


You see, Die Hard 3 had Jeremy Irons. 12 Rounds doesn't. In his place is Aidan Gillen, a fiendishly clever Irish man who somehow manages to orchestrate every event without a single hitch. Directing Danny down blind alleys and up fire exits, his game is one of those smug series of cryptic clues and loud bangs. The kind we used to like in the 90s. But back in the old days, things were simple, none of this trying to be clever lark. And when your cunning plan is riddled with holes anyway, you really don't seem so smart. What happened to just knocking off the local Barclays?

It all climaxes with (you guessed it) a helicopter - because, of course, Molly can fly one of those. Renny Harlin shoots it all with serious urgency, slamming the film's speed into gear 11. But with such a derivative script and flimsy villain, Renny's comeback never quite makes it all the way. Fortunately for Harlin, Cena's tough enough to take a few hits - he might be bland, but his stunt work's strong, making 12 Rounds more fun than it ever should be.


An old-fashioned blockbuster, for all the Speed fans out there. It's not quite Cruise Control, but this is no Lethal Weapon.


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