DVD Release Date: Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Director Renny Harlin has been responsible for a solid number of entertaining films, including Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. So when WWE Studios announced that he would be helming John Cena’s second star vehicle, 12 Rounds, there was some hope that Harlin could help channel Cena’s natural charisma into an entertaining action flick.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite pan out that way. Audiences certainly didn’t care, as the film grossed only $12 million domestically, despite opening on 2,331 screens. Critics were pretty harsh as well, with Rotten Tomatoes showing a 29% approval rating. It’s a shame, because “12 Rounds” possesses enough good qualities that it could’ve been a modest success.
Cena stars as Danny Fisher, a New Orleans police officer that finds himself in the middle of an FBI investigation along with his partner Hank Carver (Brian White). Danny and Hank help capture international drug kingpin Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen), which is enough to get them promoted to detective. Unfortunately, Miles’s girlfriend Erica Kessen (Taylor Cole) is struck by a vehicle and killed. This bothers Fisher, as he associates his promotion with her death.
One year after putting Miles away, Danny receives a call from the notorious villain. Miles has broken out of prison, and kidnaps Danny’s girlfriend Molly Porter (Ashley Scott) as revenge. In order to get her back, Danny will have to play a game Miles has designed called 12 Rounds (so it’s not just a clever name). The game is a series of sadistic challenges – think “Saw” crossed with “Die Hard: With A Vengeance.”
All in all, this is a simplistic though workable plot, though it’s worth noting that WWE Studios frequently goes back to the well of someone getting kidnapped as a plot device. Some things about the movie work well enough. Harlin knows his way around action scenes, and several of the sequences presented her are quite good. Cena is passable as the hero, and Gillen is a solid villain. The rest of the cast is pretty lousy, particularly Steve Harris as George Aiken, the FBI agent that has been chasing Miles for years and has no sympathy for Danny’s kidnapped girlfriend. His partner Ray Santiago (Gonzalo Menendez) is similarly awful, and neither are helped by the terrible dialogue from the script by Daniel Kulka.
“12 Rounds” isn’t a terrible film, but a few adjustments could’ve made it better than it is. It’s certainly a step above the usual WWE Studios fare, and if you happen upon it while flipping channels there are worse ways to spend 108 minutes.