In 12 Rounds, Cena isn't the stiff he was in The Marine, in which he played a guy who gets after some villains who snatch his girlfriend. In 12 Rounds, Cena is positively Matt Damonish in playing a cop who battles an Irish terrorist who snatches his girlfriend. He's Matt Damon with muscles, or at least a guy who looks like Matt Damon (literally) on steroids, struggling to stop a speeding streetcar, to defuse a bomb, exit a falling elevator or get out of speeding cars, fire trucks or helicopters. He still can't emote worth a lick or even manage a cocked eyebrow, which wrestler Dwayne Johnson rode to film fame. But it doesn't matter as much this time.
Cast: John Cena, Aidan Gillen, Ashley Scott, Steve Harris.
Director: Renny Harlin.
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes.
Industry rating: R for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language.
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Cena plays Danny, a beat cop who runs down a terrorist the FBI has lost, and is promoted to detective for it. A year later, the bad guy escapes from a Florida prison and traps Danny in a "12 round" re-match with the one fellow who bested him.
"It's our anniversary," Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen) purrs in an authentic Irish accent. "This is a game. Y' like games, Danny?"
Aye, lad, we all do. Except for Danny. But since, once again, Cena's playing a guy who has lost his girlfriend (Ashley Scott) to the bad guy, Danny must play along.
He is sent hurtling through New Orleans, wrecking stuff, saving (or not saving) innocent bystanders, trying to stop a streetcar not named Desire.
Very Die Hard 3, in other words. Except that in this movie, while the WWE was willing to spring for lots of cars to wreck, it didn't blow a dime on casting a decent villain. Why not get a "heel" (a villain wrestler) to do the dirty work? At least he'd be scary. I kept expecting this Gillen fellow to blurt out, 'Aaaaaaallways after me Lucky Charms!'. "
There's a prickly and not-helpful F.B.I. agent ( Steve Harris) in the way, a partner (Brian J. White) who says "Have I ever let you down?" just after letting Danny down, and a lot of cell-phone threats, clues, tearful pleas and frantic calls for "back up."
Noisy, cut into a head-snapping blur with little room for humor, or Cena to even try showing some emotion, 12 Rounds is an occasionally exciting but always empty action movie experience.
But there's news in this latest upgrade of the WWE movie brand, and it comes from behind the camera. The Finn isn't finished after all.