This is the magic of the prestigious WWE Studios banner: it can force a franchise into existence. 12 ROUNDS was one of their better theatrical releases, a straightforward but solidly executed take on a well-worn gimmick: the hero (WWE Superstar John Cena) is forced to play a deadly game by a devious mastermind (The Wire Superstar Aiden Gillen) who blames him for the death of his wife. The game is of course divided into 12 rounds (if the villain was into video games it would be 12 LEVELS) where he has to drive around town doing things before a timer winds down and something blows up or something. The action is largely handheld but still clear and exciting because the director is Renny Harlin. And that gives you the handiest description of the movie: a rip-off of DIE HARD 3 by the director of DIE HARD 2.
I liked it, but did anybody else? It looks like it didn’t make much more than half of its budget in theaters. I’m sure it did better on video, but it’s not all that well known, is it? Luckily that doesn’t stop WWE Studios from DTV-sequelizing like they did with THE MARINE. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If there’s a part 2 then part 1 must be significant, right? And you don’t have to watch both because it’s not connected. It’s some other wrestler playing some other character and some other villain with some other grievance, playing some other deadly game. But coincidentally with 12 rounds again.
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VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.