Starring: John Cena, Aiden Gillen, Ashley Scott
Directed by: Renny Harlin
You would think that a film created by the world’s largest professional wrestling outfit would be an elite action thrill-ride. To a certain extent, 12 Rounds succeeds. However, Renny Harlin’s movie has too many problems that prohibit it from being one of the best action films of all time. The acting is bad and the dialogue isn’t much better. At least the action doesn’t feel over the top (much) and the film is paced well enough to keep the audience on the edge of their seats for most of the experience.
The story begins with a New Orleans cop named Danny Fisher (John Cena) thwarting and capturing a man on the run from the FBI named Miles Jackson (Aiden Gillen). During the altercation, Jackson’s girlfriend and accomplice is killed by being hit with a car. Jackson swears revenge even though he’s being thrown into jail for a long time. One year later though, Jackson calls Fisher to him that he’s escaped from prison and he’s captured Fisher’s girlfriend Molly (Ashley Scott). Jackson demands that Fisher go through a battery of challenges to save Molly. If Fisher doesn’t participate in Jackson’s ’12 Rounds’ of challenges, then Molly will meet her end.
One of the supposed qualities of being the WWE champion is that you should be charismatic. In the wrestling world, John Cena may be one of the most charismatic characters around. However, in the movie world, it’s as if he took acting lessons from a tree…and the tree thought he sucked too. Cena is bad; although other than Gillen, the supporting cast is not much better. His wooden acting hurts the film and his lack of intensity slightly brings down some of the films’ more tense scenes. He has one emotion that he can do very well though: dull.
The dialogue is corny as well. It feels as if the writers felt that they could be successful by writing cliché line after cliché line. Although you may expect to hear some cheesy lines from an action movie, some of the stuff in this movie takes the cake. Cena’s acting is bad enough but when his lines are lame enough that it makes him look like an idiot, it becomes draining to watch. Even Gillen looks like a buffoon at times with dialogue that is unfitting of a sharp antagonist.
It’s as if they concentrated all their creative energies on the action because the action in this movie is incredible. Things blow up all the time and never does it feel like you can look away from a second because you’ll miss something breathtaking. It’s also paced very well so there isn’t an extended action scene followed by half-an-hour of talking. The dialogue interrupts the action briefly only to further the story. Ignoring the story, this is an excellent action movie. The problem is that the acting and dialogue don’t live up to the bar the action sets.
The movie feels paced in a way like the movie Speed which is saying quite a bit considering that Speed is one of the best action-suspense movies ever. In fact, there’s a scene in the movie where Fisher is on a bus with a bomb (strapped to Molly and accompanied by Jackson). The bus scene is one of the best scenes in the movie and the interaction between Fisher and Jackson is one of the few times where Cena’s acting doesn’t falter and the dialogue is surprisingly good.
Some of the other challenges that Fisher must go through are quite interesting. What makes it really good is that we know that Fisher isn’t perfect and makes costly mistakes throughout the movie. It makes the character feel more human and gives the story more legitimacy compared to other movies in the genre that make the main character out to be a superhero.
The thing though is that Harlin’s 12 Rounds is a fairly decent flick but there are hiccups like the shoddy acting that hurt the experience. Thankfully, it doesn’t kill the movie and for the most part is an enjoyable ride. Unfortunately for WWE films, it doesn’t showcase John Cena in a good light. In fact, after watching this film it doesn’t make me want to pay to see any more of Cena. However, spending a couple of dollars to see this satisfying action film is worth it.
This post was originally published on this site on January 14, 2010. The original review is intact with some minor grammatical changes and film stills were added for this revision.