Sunday, 25 October 2009

12 Rounds (2009)

Oh Renny Harlin, you magnificent bastard

It's important in life to have dreams. Some people want to climb the highest mountain, just because it's there. Other people dedicate their lives to charity work to try and make the world a better place. My dream was to watch all films produced by WWE Films and today... I achieved that dream. After watching See No Evil, The Marine, The Condemned and Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia, 12 Rounds completes my long and arduous journey through the cinematic wasteland of WWE Films. Finally my life is complete.

After The Marine failed to launch John Cena's career as an action movie star, they decided to wait a couple of years until everyone had forgotten and try again. Here he plays Danny Fisher, a New Orleans cop who along with his partner Hank (Brian White) tries to help the FBI take down a notorious international arms dealer named Miles Jackson. Every stupid action movie has to include a former HBO actor by law so Miles is played by Aiden Gillen from The Wire. Hank is black so of course he gets shot (in the ass, comedy etc) while Miles and his girlfriend try to escape on foot. Unfortunately she fails to look both ways and gets pancaked by an SUV. Several months later Miles uses this flimsy justification to escape from prison and kidnap Danny's wife, forcing him to participate in 12 rounds of a sadistic game in order to save her.

He starts the game by blowing up his car, his house and his plumber. This is a real tragedy, do you know how hard it is to find a trustworthy plumber? Clearly they've built up a good working relationship since the guy scolds Danny for not maintaining his fixtures and gives him unsolicited marriage advice. On the plus side, no more leaky plumbing. Also, his beloved pet pug Shorty survives. I don't know how because it was a huge explosion but I'd love to see a sequel/spin-off that shows how the pug escaped. I assume a slow motion leap through a doggy door was involved. He dumps Shorty on a neighbour and rushes off to save his wife but I like to imagine that the dog chased after Danny and helped him out behind the scenes, perhaps by herding people out of the way of traffic or creating diversions to let Danny get from A to B more quickly.

In case you hadn't noticed the plot is pretty much a direct copy of Die Hard With a Vengeance. Danny gets behind the wheel of many different vehicles and causes millions of dollars worth of property damage while trying to defuse bombs, save his wife etc. The puzzles are few and simple and the car chases are long and destructive. At one point he commandeers a fire truck and plows through dozens of cars and a whole row of motorcycles on his way to the next location. When he arrives one of the FBI Agents says "Tell me you didn't kill anyone in that thing" and I was thinking the same thing. I can't blame the guy for wanting to save his wife, but where do you draw the line? There's at least three people who die in the process, including his partner and his own brother. I think this is one of those games where the only way to win is to not play.

I'm trying to piece together the swath of destruction that Danny carves through the city and it's just mind-blowing. There's the highly destructive fire engine chase. There's a city bus (upon which Danny's wife is fitted with a suicide bomber vest that is set to fire a nail into her heart and then blow up the entire bus) that careens out of control and crashes spectacularly. Several buildings are bombed and there's a lengthy sequence involving a runaway tram where Danny blows up a power substation. Hasn't New Orleans been through enough? Obviously he saves his wife and it's a happy ending but just imagine how he's going to feel after the reality of the situation sinks in. I'm sure dozens of people would have been killed in the numerous explosions and car crashes, not to mention the incalculable property damage. This is a guy who felt guilty about being made Detective after Miles' girlfriend was killed, this shit is going to kill him. What a depressing movie.

Naturally there's a big plot twist and it's exactly the same as Die Hard with a Vengeance too. The elaborate revenge scheme is all part of a one-man plot to steal $100 million dollars from the mint. This is a really elaborate plan too. He's a smart guy (at one point he stops to give advice to some guys playing chess, movie shorthand for "this is a smart guy") but he'd have to be clairvoyant for this plan to work. He seems to know precisely which course of action Danny is going to take and he's got no way of knowing whether things worked out the way he expected. His plan also hinges on some pretty stupid holes in the mint's security procedures. He walks in wearing an armed guard uniform and claims that the regular guy is sick and they let him walk right into the vault. Makes you wonder why he bothered with all the other shit.

The movie is directed by the mad Finn Renny Harlin but it's not as sublimely stupid as I expected, more Cliffhanger than Deep Blue Sea. It's shot in a modern shaky-cam style and although I've seen a lot worse examples it ruins a could-have-been-great fight in a medical helicopter involving scalpels, defibrillators etc. This another one of those PG-13 action movies but it's more about car chases and property damage so the rating isn't as noticeable as in something like The Marine, although there are two instances where a good guy shouts "Bitch!" at a dramatic moment where "Motherfucker!" would have clearly been more appropriate. It's watchable but definitely not as fun/stupid as you would expect from a WWE Films production directed by Renny Harlin.

No comments: