a critiQal film review 12 Rounds (2009)

Plot: When New Orleans cop Danny Fisher (Cena) prevents a brilliant thief from successfully carrying out his latest heist, the thief's girlfriend is accidentally killed. Hungry for revenge, the criminal mastermind breaks out of prison and kidnaps Danny's fiancee. To save her, Danny must successfully navigate his way through an elaborate series of tasks and puzzles, or else watch the love of his life die.

713 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 33s)
  • ...after this film, it's obvious that WWE needs to enroll John Cena in some acting lessons - or just move on to another wrestler.

It seems the WWE thinks it’s a movie powerhouse now, after the success of The Rock (The Scorpion King (2002)) and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (The Condemned (2007)). Their latest “star”, John Cena, didn’t do so well with his first film (The Marine (2006)), so they developed a new – yet eerily similar – title for him, 12 Rounds. Would this second film unleash Cena’s potential – or is he destined to just be a star in the ring?

The first film showcased that, while Cena is pretty good at following orders and leaping through hoops for action sequences, he’s unpolished and stilted during slow sequences. Unfortunately, 12 Rounds backs that up, and it’s a bit awkward watching him try to negotiate through the “introduction” stage. While that may change with time, it’s starting to look like – no matter how much WWE promotes him – he just doesn’t have the same spark that “Stone Cold” or The Rock have on screen.

It really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, since he’s pretty good at acting his part on television each and every week, so it seems like he should be able to do the same on the big screen. Maybe it’s that he’s already in the thick of the action, so to speak, when he shows up on “WWE Raw” (TV) or “WWE SmackDown Live” (TV), forgoing the initial awkward stage so apparent in films.

His girlfriend in 12 Rounds, Ashley Scott, is so similar to his character’s girlfriend in The Marine (2006), they are basically interchangeable. Either he prefers a blonde, slightly vapid girlfriend, or the filmmakers think that’s who’s supposed to be on his arm. Either way, by this point the audience knows his girlfriend is just there to provide his character with motive and tunes her out quickly.

While The Marine (2006) had Robert Patrick – a well-known name – to spar with Cena as his nemesis, this time around it’s the much less recognizable Aidan Gillen (“The Wire” (TV)). Sadly, this only seems to prove that Robert Patrick was more of a reason to watch The Marine (2006) than John Cena himself, and the audience will miss the strong foe Patrick provided. Aidan isn’t awful as the bad guy, but he doesn’t provide a big enough distraction to the viewers so they can overlook Cena’s many flaws.

The plot seems pretty straight-forward and predictable from the get-go, and the cast doesn’t help to make it much more interesting. True, there is a bit of a twist near the end, but even that twist has been used so many times by this point that the twist itself is also rather predictable. It is interesting when it happens, but since it leads to the ridiculously cliched action movie ending, viewers will finish the film shaking their heads with disgust rather than appreciating any attempt at a plot twist.

While a lot of viewers will chock 12 Rounds up to another failed attempt by WWE to insert Cena as the newest action star, maybe the scripts Cena is being given are part of the problem. After all, so far neither of them have been anything but the run-of-the-mill predictable action flicks that would have been a better fit in the action heyday of the 80’s – although Cena’s pathetic attempts at trying to show some emotional substance go a long way to putting the movie on a much lower level, so the full blame can’t be put off on the scripts.

With two major disappointments in a row, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (now attached to Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables (2010)) and The Rock (now going by Dwayne Johnson, and set to star in Disney’s upcoming Tooth Fairy (2010)) out on their own, it may be time for another superstar to attempt to make it on the big screen, and leave Cena to the straight-to-DVD section like his co-horts Mr. Kennedy (Behind Enemy Lines: Columbia) and Ted DiBiase (The Marine 2).

But who’s next? My pick would be Triple H. He’s shown he’s decent in small roles (Blade: Trinity (2004)) and he was looked at for a major role (the lead in Marvel’s upcoming Thor (2011)), so why not? Give him a vehicle to showcase what he can do, and stop kicking the dead horse that is Cena’s acting career. Either that, or give Cena some acting lessons.

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