Powell's Review: Watching "12 Rounds" with 12 other people (no spoilers)

Posted in: More Reviews, Powell Editorials
By By Jason Powell
Mar 28, 2009 - 11:52 AM

I entered the movie theater surprised to see mothers and their children everywhere. Has WWE's switch to PG programming really paid off? Nope. The kids and the MILFS, er, moms were there to see Monsters vs. Aliens. Meanwhile, roughly a dozen people joined me and the group I was with for an early afternoon viewing of John Cena's 12 Rounds.

It was obvious from the beginning that this was not the typical WWE Studios release. The production, acting, and script were significantly better than the straight to DVD garbage that WWE has been pumping out every year.

Cena was solid in his role as Danny Fisher. He's noted in interviews that director Renny Harlin wanted him to be an everyman that people could identify with. I assume this is the reason that Cena wore a long shirt to hide his physique throughout the movie. It sounds like a small detail, but it would have been distracting and far fetched to see cop looking as jacked up as Cena does.

The action scenes are intense, yet sometimes hard to follow because Harlin has the shaky camera syndrome. It was a cool effect for the fight scenes in The Bourne Identity flicks, but Harlin takes it to a new level by shaking the camera just to shake the camera to the extent that you couldn't even read Cena's watch in one scene.

It took about 15 minutes for my eyes to adjust to all the shakiness, and then I sat back and enjoyed a better than expected action movie. Sure, there are plenty of corny moments, specifically some of the over the top stunts late in the movie that I won't reveal here, but anyone who sees this movie has to know going in that they're bound to see some action movie silliness.

Unlike the other WWE Studios releases, I didn't have to force myself to keep watching until the end. Cena's character was likable for the most part, although he did annoy me a couple times by whining to other law enforcement officials about how being forced to play the 12 Rounds game with the villain. John McClane may have sarcastically pissed and moaned while talking to himself in the original Die Hard, but he never acted like he wanted to give up the fight to save his wife like Cena's character does a couple of times.

The villainous Miles Jackson character was dark, intelligent, and maniacal, like any good action movie bad guy should be. Aidan Gillen, the actor who played Jackson, was the highlight of the film, which should be no surprise to anyone who saw his work on HBO's amazing series "The Wire." Unfortunately, only Cena and Gillen have defined characters, whereas everyone else in the movie is just along for the ride.

The film is light on swearing, but there are several death scenes that push the PG-13 rating to the limit (something WWE clearly knows about). It's too dark for younger Cena fans, but it's no darker than Die Hard or other action movies.

Overall, I give the movie **1/2 stars out of five. It's easily the best WWE Studios release to date. I won't recommend the theatrical experience to non-Cena fans. The action is cool on the big screen, but it's nothing you can't wait to see on DVD. My guess is that it will be the type of movie that pleasantly surprises people who rent it at the video store when it's released on DVD later this year.

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