12 Rounds

Year: 2009
Production Co: Mark Gordon Company
Director: Renny Harlin
Producer: Renny Harlin/Mark Gordon
Writer: Daniel Kunka
Cast: John Cena
I saw this film after being a fan of Renny Harlin from the days of Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger. As an action director he wasn't afraid to push the envelope, employ considerable bloodshed for emotional impact and heighten the excitement as a result.

What a shame then to see - like contemporaries Jan de Bont, Rob Cohen and Alex Proyas - that he's produced a bland thriller completely devoid of the personality that made up his brand.

That's not to say the high concept 12 Rounds isn't a good movie, but it is a shame that any hack could have done it and Harlin seems to be doing little more than pointing the megaphone and yelling 'action'.

But it's not all bad news. It's an accomplished actioner, perhaps surprisingly so given the brain dead approach you expect given it's a co-financed by the pro wrestling association and stars wrestling star Cena.

But it's the twist that comes from nowhere and makes an average action thriller into a great story. When good New Orleans cop Cena foils a dangerous terrorist fugitive in a drama that sees the bad guy's girlfriend run down and killed, the nasty Oirish-accepted killer vows revenge, and a year later, on the morning he escapes from prison, the hero's life is turned upside down when his wife is snatched.

A classic cat and mouse game begins as the villain sends the hero on a series of wild goose chases across the city to solve 12 riddles in order to keep his wife alive, but it's the reveal just before the final puzzle is solved that impresses, revealing a whole new motive and giving the movie a whole new dimension.

The acting is passable, and it's not totally absent of Harlin's trademarks, with a breakneck pace that races past too fast for you to see how silly the whole thing is. Some blistering set pieces finish a very slick package off.

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