2006's The Marine, starring professional wrestler John Cena, was one of those movies that I drunkenly enjoyed in spite of nearly everything about it. Dumb as nails, full of explosions, shallow as a saucepan, and with a ludicrously thickly-muscled hero named JOHN TRITON, it oozed with the spirit of 80s action. And now Cena returns in 12 Rounds to similarly channel the 90s. Whereas the 80s thrived on rogue cops who didn't play by the rules, 90s action was all about lightning-paced nonstop locomotion, heroes who didn't and couldn't stand still such as in Speed and Die Hard: With a Vengeance, and 12 Rounds picks up right where they left off.
Basically, New Orleans cop Danny Fisher (sadly nowhere near as epic a protagonist name as JOHN TRITON) is involved in the accidental death of (equally uninspiringly-named) supervillain Miles Jackson's girlfriend, so Miles kidnaps Danny's wife and laces half of New Orleans with explosives in retaliation. Danny is forced to play twelve rounds of what Miles calls "the game" for the chance to save his wife, a scavenger hunt of clues spread throughout the city along with terrorist threats which Danny must thwart. As I said, very, very Die Hard: With a Vengeance, and bombs, explosions, snipers, car chases, plummeting elevators, derailing trains, crashing helicopters, and general mayhem ensue.
Directed by 90s action maestro Renny Harlin, of Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Cliffhanger, and The Long Kiss Goodnight fame, I'll confirm upfront that 12 Rounds is a bad movie. But I'll follow that up by admitting that, to hell with dignity, I had a good time watching it. Maybe I just saw it while in the perfect mood to turn my brain to 10%, let my eyes glaze over and my jaw droop and drool on my retard bib, but it hit the spot. Hell, I'm not alone: although it's technically a rotten tomato, its score is pretty impressive for a movie starring John Cena and literally produced by the fucking WWE. Cena lacks the charisma of The Rock or 80s-era Arnold or Stallone, but as far as dramatic talent he's no worse than Seagal or Chuck Norris and he runs and jumps and punches people just fine.
I will warn in advance that if you want to shudder with pleasure as you vicariously live your fascist fantasies through a film protagonist, you'll want to go see Taken again instead. Danny Fisher doesn't torture or even threaten a single person for information, he never once gripes about the courts being soft on crime, he kills less people than any action hero in recent memory, and he never even goes rogue from the police department. Literally the only time he breaks the law in the entire movie is crashing into several vehicles during a car chase, and he shouts apologies to the motorists as he does so! He and his partner even gripe about the government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina! Yes, this is a fucking left-leaning cop action movie! What's next, G-rated sex comedies?
Nevertheless, on a scale of microscopic explosion to nuclear explosion, this movie is at least an exploding car. I'm probably giving up any claim of ever being taken seriously again by saying so, but fuck it, go see 12 Rounds, your inner moron will thank you.
2 Stars out of 5