If nothing else one has to give credit to the WWE for attempting to spread out further than the squared circle. While their attempt at a new football franchise failed, their diving into the world of film has done well for them. Some movies hit highs and some drop to lows but they're almost always entertaining. They also provide a jumping board for the careers of their wrestlers. Such is the case with John Cena.
Cena has starred in one film already, the well received THE MARINE. An action film seemed a natural leap for him and he did a fine job handling acting and action chores both with ease. The next step was finding a follow up vehicle and that came about with the new release 12 ROUNDS.
Cena stars as New Orleans policeman Danny Fisher who winds up by circumstance in the middle of an FBI hunt to track down a terrorist named Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen). A chase follows and after he stops the terrorist, Jackson tells his girlfriend to run before he takes the time to notice an oncoming truck in her path. Blaming Fisher for her death, he swears they'll meet again.
Fast forward one year later and Danny is now a detective. He heads to work only to get a phone call. It's Jackson and he informs Danny that he's taken Danny's girlfriend Molly (Ashley Scott) hostage. Just to let him know he's serious, Jackson blows up Danny and Molly's house while Danny watches. He then tells him they're going to play a game with the life of Molly hanging in the balance. All Danny has to do is win the majority of the 12 rounds Jackson has planned for him.
Danny contacts his partner on the force for assistance and then heads out to take on the first round. Each one sets him up for a life or death situation for either himself or some innocent person who finds themselves involved in helping him. While he rejoices at the wins, he begins to feel guilty over the losses as they involve the death or injury of someone else.
Along the way the FBI become involved since they've been watching all along. Of course Danny's not to keen to work with them since they failed to notify him earlier of the prison break involving Jackson. Unlikely allies begin to work together to try and take down this mad man while saving Molly at the same time.
Steve Harris stars as Special Agent George Aiken, the main agent in charge of catching Jackson from the start. His concerns focus more on the recapture than on saving Molly. Of course this results in head to head conflict with Danny and his goal of saving the woman he loves. Agent Aiken has a personal reason for wanting Jackson caught as well but eventually realizes he may have put his personal interests above the life of this woman.
The clock is ticking and with only so many hours allotted for Danny to complete all of his tasks, he struggles to find a way to beat Jackson at his own game. Beaten down, battered along the way, the final showdown approaches. Only then will we discover who wins and who loses the game of 12 rounds.
Cena does a fine job here with only one problem. He's never given much chance to act. Perhaps that's the intention, giving him just enough moments to convince people of his sincerity but for the most part just jumping, running and fighting to reach the films conclusion. Cena can do a decent job of acting but unless he's given the opportunity, his chances of a long term career in film dwindles.
While the film does offer the requisite amount of action with minimal amount of plot, the twists and turns Jackson puts Danny through are original for the most part. But as I was watching this film I kept thinking I'd seen it before. It was only after I was reminded by a friend that I put it all together and realized that Bruce Willis was pretty much put through the paces of games that kept him running in DIE HARD 3. While this film is not an exact copy, the overall feeling creeps in at times.
That being said, it remains a fine piece of entertainment. The production values are well done and all the money spent to make the picture shows on the screen. Rarely has New Orleans looked this good and with the bad press of Katrina, it's nice to see the locale used once again.
All in all you won't do wrong by renting this film to watch. And for Cena fans, you'll want to add it to your collection. But let's hope that he gets the chance to stretch himself a little further in his next film. Only then can he hope to achieve greater stardom rather than find himself in the straight to DVD category.