[Screen It]


(2009) (John Cena, Aidan Gillen) (PG-13)

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Action: A detective must pass twelve challenges set by a terrorist in order to free his kidnapped girlfriend.
Danny Fisher (JOHN CENA) and Hank Carver (BRIAN WHITE) are cop partners in New Orleans who get involved in the effort to capture terrorist Miles Jackson (AIDAN GILLEN) who's been spotted in the Big Easy by FBI agents George Aiken (STEVE HARRIS) and Ray Santiago (GONZALO MENENDEZ). After recognizing Mile's girlfriend, Erica Kessen (TAYLOR COLE), driving a car, Danny has Hank pull her over. A shootout with Miles follows, with Danny chasing after the fleeing car, and while he manages to arrest the terrorist, another vehicle accidentally strikes Erica, killing her.

A year later, Danny and Hank have been promoted to detective, and Danny is still living with girlfriend Molly Porter (ASHLEY SCOTT). After she leaves for work, Danny receives an unsettling call from Miles who states he's escaped from prison and is going to avenge Erica's death by playing a high-stakes game with the cop. It turns out he's back in town, has abducted Molly, and informs Danny that their game is going to involve twelve rounds of challenges he must pass if he hopes to see his girlfriend alive again.

From that point on, and with Hank's help but some run-ins with the FBI agents who only care about getting their man, Danny races against time to meet the terrorist's demands.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

Director Renny Harlin once made decent action pics ("Cliffhanger," "The Long Kiss Goodnight"), mediocre ones with decent action sequences ("Die Hard 2," "Deep Blue Sea") and infamous bombs ("Cutthroat Island") before recently disappearing into cinematic obscurity ("Mindhunters," "The Covenant").

His latest effort, "12 Rounds," won't be raising him from the latter category. Nothing more than an amalgamation of action scenes lifted from or inspired by better predecessors (the third "Die Hard" and first "Speed" flicks), it has a few decent sequences, but suffers from a weak script and a mostly wooden lead performance from WWE star John Cena again trying to find his big break in movies (after 2006's "The Marine").

Maybe with some (okay, a lot of) acting lessons, he might yet turn into a decent action star. But so far, he's missing that onscreen charisma that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has mined so well, or the over-the-top theatrics that made the future Governor of California so popular on the big screen back in his cinematic heyday.

Better as a video rental than a theatrical experience, "12 Rounds" doesn't have as much fun with the villain's games as "Die Hard 3" did, and Aidan Gillen is no Jeremy Irons in terms of playing Simon Says. The film rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed March 27, 2009 / Posted March 27, 2009

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