April 2, 2009

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12 Rounds (PG-13)
Chasing, fighting and ’splosions are on the menu for the WWE movie 12 Rounds, an action movie that’s not smart but plenty energetic.

The first chunk of the movie sets up the revenge scenario that drives most of the movie’s major action. In this opening act, New Orleans police officer Danny Fisher (John Cena) and his partner Hank Carver (Brian White) are on patrol when an F.B.I. sting goes wrong and international terrorist-type Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen) is on the run. Fisher and Carver are heading to assist when they happen to pull up to an intersection next to a car driven by Erica (Taylor Cole), whom keen observer Danny recognizes as a girl spotted with Jackson earlier that night. He pulls her over and when their questioning of her takes a bit too long, Miles pops out of the trunk and starts shooting. Eventually, Danny is able to hold Miles and Erica at gun point, but before he can start with the law half of the “law and order” equation, Erica makes a run for it and darts into the path of an oncoming truck.

Squish.

Miles tells Danny that he’s going to remember him. So when, a year later, a newly promoted Danny is fighting with his girlfriend Molly (Ashley Scott) before she leaves for work, it doesn’t take a fortune teller to guess who’s going to be on the other end of the first phone call he gets after she slams the door. Miles is all “you took from me so I’m going to take from you” and Danny is all “hey my truck just exploded” and without much ado we arrive at the motivation for the rest of the action: Miles has Molly and will only get her back if Danny wins the next 12 rounds of a game that involves racing all over the city and trying to find clues. It’s like a scavenger hunt but with explosive devices and car crashes.

Fans of WWE will recognize Cena from his wrestling but I mostly recognize him from the movie The Marine, which is more or less an identical movie (girlfriend abducted by bad guys, big-pawed Cena fighting to get her back) but featuring Robert Patrick as the bad guy and therefore is, if you can believe it, more absurd than this movie. I have to say that in spite of the fact that “Cena want smash” pretty much sums up 12 Rounds, I didn’t hate it. I’d rather watch classic American cars and, occasionally, a fire truck race down city streets, making improbable turns and crashing into dozens of vehicles without causing one injury, than be subjected to (thinking back on the past few weeks at the theater) another bad horror movie, another movie about Playboy bunnies or anything with Nicolas Cage. Hey, times are tough, the real world isn’t full of good news and sometimes you just need a little ka-boom crash zoom-zoom punch to take the edge off. C

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action. Directed by Renny Harlin and written by Daniel Kunka, 12 Rounds is an hour and 48 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by 20th Century Fox.