Plot: An infamous terrorist named Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen) has arrived in New Orleans to do some work and pick up some fast funds. At the same time, federal authorities are aware of his situation and prepare to take him down, but Jackson is able to evade them with help from his girlfriend Erica (Taylor Cole). When the call goes out for assistance, police officer Danny Fisher (John Cena) and his partner respond. Fisher notices Erica in a car, so the two pull her over and Fisher’s partner takes a personal interest in the beautiful Erica. But then he is gunned down by Jackson, which leads to a shoot out in which Erica is killed, but Jackson is put behind bars. But one year later, it would seem Jackson has returned, as Fisher’s girlfriend is kidnapped and unless he completes a series of tasks for her captor, he will lose her forever.
Entertainment Value: I wasn’t a fan of 12 Rounds the first time I watched it, but when I revisited the movie for this review, I was much more entertained and appreciated the b movie vibes a lot more. The premise is a fun one, as John Cena battles Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones’ Littlefinger) in a series of puzzles and tasks, kind of like in Die Hard with a Vengeance. The various challenges aren’t that creative or memorable, but the over the top action helps compensate, as 12 Rounds makes no effort toward realism and goes for popcorn style thrills instead. The movie isn’t wall to wall action, but it has a good number of set pieces and when the action does heat, the film delivers fun, large scale sequences to dazzle us. I can only imagine how damage Cena causes around the urban landscape as he chases down the villain, but I have to think he will get written up for wanton destruction. That’s the fun of 12 Rounds however, just ridiculous action scenes and dialed up, b movie style banter between Cena and Gillen, to give that cat and mouse dynamic the script needs. I also like the enthusiasm and open pursuit of big, flashy action scenes, as the movie knows what it is and runs with the concept, which not all films are smart enough to embrace. So if you like John Cena, Littlefinger, or b action movies, give 12 Rounds a look.
I have to admit, I might not be a fan of John Cena’s work inside the squared circle, but I do think he is a capable, often over the top action lead. In 12 Rounds he is front and center, so he has to carry the movie on his shoulders and he does so well, handling the action scenes and dramatic moments. Of course, this material doesn’t push him to do much beyond look tough and run a lot, but Cena brings some charisma and is a good fit for this kind of b movie action flick. The movie is wise to play to his strengths, which helps his performance a lot, but Cena holds up his end as well, doing about all he can with the material. I also love that Cena’s rival here is Aidan Gillen, who plays Littlefinger on Game on Thrones. The two make such an odd, random set of enemies and that made the movie a lot of fun, at least for me. Gillen dials up his villain persona and goes over the top, but that’s good in this case. His character isn’t given much depth, but his presence is effective and he brings just enough campiness, to craft a solid bad guy for 12 Rounds. The cast also includes Brian White, Ashley Scott, and Taylor Cole, while action legend Renny Harlin served as the film’s director.