12 Rounds stars John Cena, the WWE wrestler and rapper (yes, rapper) as Danny Fisher, a New Orleans cop who foils an international terrorist's plan to steal diamonds or something. Anyway, during the pursuit, the terrorist's girlfriend is killed, and the terrorist captured. Then the terrorist goes to jail. Then, naturally, he breaks out a year later, kidnaps Danny's fiancé, and torments Danny for an entire day with a number of impossible tasks that have Danny running, jumping and flexing to save his girl. But mostly flexing.
Almost. Actually, Cena's turn as Fisher is hardly the worst performance in the film. That honor goes to either the villain, Miles Jackson (played by Aidan Gillen, an Irish actor perhaps best known for his role in the HBO series The Wire), or Steve Harris (from ABC's The Practice), who plays an FBI agent with a personal vendetta against Jackson. Gillen and Harris are as close to lifeless clichés as you can get without using cardboard. I thought for a moment that Gillen would turn straight to the camera and growl, "You can't catch me, copper!" As for Harris, the fault may not be all his. The screenwriters for some reason decided to make him impossibly unlikable in the first half of the film, and then contorted the script so that he becomes the misunderstood-lug-with-a-heart in the third act; I wasn't buying.
New Orleans probably has the best supporting role in the film, with its dilapidated Ninth Ward, French Quarter and historic Old Town serving as a not-so-subtle reminder of the devastation wrought by Katrina. The disaster is mentioned numerous times, and even incorporated into the plot, although there is a distinct possibility that most of the movie's audience isn't a big fan of topical references. Let's face facts; if you're sincere in plunking down 10 bucks for a John Cena film, you're not interested in political controversy. You want to see Cena beat the crap out of people.
Well, there's not as much of that as you'd think. Most of the action is reserved for runaway fire trucks and trolley cars, screaming pedestrians, explosions and gunfire. The final scene was never screen-tested for unintentional laughs: the terrorist, Miles, is firing about 300 bullets at Fisher and an FBI agent from a helicopter, immediately followed by Fisher's fiancé screaming "Danny, he's got a gun!"
Ninety percent of you readers didn't even glance at this review. Eighty percent of the remaining 10 percent read it only for laughs. It's the two-percenters that I must salute. Why? Because you're still trying to do the math on those last few sentences.
12 Rounds ★✩✩✩
Starring John Cena, Aidan Gillen and Steve Harris. Directed by Renny Harlin. Rated PG-13.