The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: 12 Rounds (2009)

Renny Harlin

John Cena - Det. Danny Fisher
Aidan Gillen - Miles Jackson
Ashley Scott - Molly Porter
Steve Harris - Special Agent George Aiken
Brian J. White - Det. Hank Carver
Gonzalo Menendez - Special Agent Ray Santiago

Genre - Action

Running Time - 108 Minutes

Score - 1 Howl Outta 4

Movies like 12 ROUNDS make me glad most of the time that I'm a single guy. I wouldn't want to deal with some person who I made angry in the past, who has kidnapped my girlfriend and is now putting me through twelve trials just to prove my love and get her back alive. Unless he kidnapped my ex-girlfriend. That bitch doesn't deserve my blood, sweat, and tears.

My ex also deserves a film like 12 ROUNDS, which is extremely dumb for even "dumb action movies" standards. While it's an improvement over WWE Films' first John Cena vehicle, the nauseating THE MARINE, 12 ROUNDS is about nine rounds away from being a action film worth watching. Let's see why Vince McMahon should rethink about this whole movie business...

Danny Fisher (John Cena) is a New Orleans Police Detective with apparent superabilities and a string of bad luck. During an FBI sting operation the year before, Danny and his partner Hank Carver (Brian J. White) chase down some international arms dealer and terrorist named Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen) and his accomplice girlfriend, Ericka (Taylor Cole). Hank gets shot, but Danny manages to reach the two criminals. Unfortunately, Ericka is murdered by being hit by a van during her escape, managing to stun Miles long enough to be arrested - and to wish revenge on Danny for "murdering" the love of his life.

Present day, Miles somehow escapes prison and kidnaps Danny's girlfriend, Molly (Ashley Scott), as a way to pay Danny back for Ericka's death. Unlike a real villain, who would have murdered the girlfriend of his enemy right away, Miles decides to be a douche and play a game with Danny. This game involves putting Danny through 12 rounds of dangerous situations. If Danny completes all 12, he gets Molly back. If not, both of them are dead. But as Hank and FBI Agents George Aiken (Steve Harris) and Ray Santiago (Gonzalo Menendez) join the case, Miles true intentions start to reveal themselves. Is it just a case of simple revenge? Or is there something much more in play here?

I have three words for 12 ROUNDS:


12 ROUNDS is a film with an interesting concept but executed really poorly like most Hollywood film ideas these days. It should be a fun film. It should be an exciting film. But it's boring, more predictable than any action film should be, and not all that memorable once it's over. When I'm wishing the hero to FAIL at his goal in an action movie, we have a major problem.

The story, written by Daniel Kunka [who never wrote a screenplay before this one], was obviously inspired by DIE HARD, SPEED, and probably THE FRENCH CONNECTION. The screenplay is so inspiring that I was wishing that I was watching those films instead of this one. The story is pretty bad for action standards. The 12 rounds gimmick is a pretty cool one - if it was done right. But the way they're used here just drags 12 ROUNDS down. Why 12 rounds? Why not 6 or something? Would it have made a difference? And they were mainly about receiving phone calls and demolishing city property. Ooh, exciting. Most of the rounds require some sort of deadline, I assume, to increase the tension and suspense. What's laughable is that for those that don't have a deadline, the characters just decide to make one on their own just for fuck's sakes. How in the hell does Danny know he has to reach a certain destination in a minute if Miles never told him? I guess that's why he's a fake Police Detective and I'm not. At least the rounds keep the film from going completely stale, even if they are pretty lame rounds.

The character development in the film is pretty non-existent. While I like stereotypes as much as anyone [i.e. the Hero, the token kidnapped girlfriend, the James Bond-ian villain, the best friend who's gonna bite it], it doesn't increase a viewer's interest in the weak narrative. With the main sub-plot being Danny's mission to save Molly from Miles, it would have helped if we knew what kind of relationship Danny and Molly have to make us care. They barely have two minutes on-screen time together before Molly gets kidnapped, to which Danny overreacts about and risks his own life to save her. For me to understand the driving force behind Danny's motive, I need to understand the complexity of his relationship to his girlfriend. Instead, Danny is given a girlfriend because it's an action cliche and it has to be in the script. There's no other reason for it to exist otherwise. The whole thing feels forced and uninteresting. I thought Miles relationship with Ericka was more developed, and Ericka was barely in the film. That's pretty sad. And I gotta say - why is Vince McMahon putting John Cena in movies where he has to save his wife or his girlfriend? What's next? John Cena having to save his fiancee or boyfriend or something? It's getting old and stupid.

And even though this film is supposed to be about Danny chasing after Miles, I found the smaller sub-plot with Steve Harris' character to be more interesting. George Aiken had a grudge with Miles over something from the past, constantly playing with a Hot Wheels car as a reminder. It made me wonder why he had this toy and why he kept opening and closing the hood. Also, what did Miles do to Aiken that turned the guy into such a prick? He was the most interesting character in the film because he actually made me want to know MORE about the guy. Wow, what a novel concept. I wish 12 ROUNDS had more moments that caught my interest. Aiken should have been the main character, not Superman Danny Fisher.

The action sequences, just like in THE MARINE, are pretty implausible and just overall ridiculous. Watching John Cena fly with his limbs extended when he's near an explosion just make me chuckle for all the wrong reasons. We get a bus scene that's a lamer version of SPEED. We get a long sequence with a trolley that can't brake, so Danny and Ray Santiago stop it - by driving their car into the New Orleans power supply in the middle of some street.

Are you fuckin' serious?

We also get Danny sliding down something outside of a tall building because it's QUICKER to kill himself doing that than running down 10 flights of stairs.


And let's not forget the helicopter battle at the end. And Danny barely got a bruise or a scratch on him. But he sure was really sore!


Renny Harlin [director of DIE HARD 2, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER, the awesome CLIFFHANGER, the not-so-awesome THE COVENANT, and countless others] does a barely mediocre job behind the camera. While the film looks visually more appealing than anything in THE MARINE, there were still problems on the technical front. For a 108 minute film, it felt twice as long. Also, we could have had some cool action sequences in the film. Unfortunately, Harlin decided that using annoying quick cuts and an unnecessary amount of shaky cam would be friggin' cool!

No, it's not!

I also felt that Harlin used too many sequences where cars were exploding and property was getting destroyed. I understand it's an action film, Renny. You don't have to force it! I appreciate that Harlin tried to make 12 ROUNDS feel like an 80s and 90s over-the-top action film. But those films [the good ones anyway] had a heart and soul behind the destruction. 12 ROUNDS is just heartless and soulless, no matter how much Harlin was trying to put life into it.

The acting was a mixed bag here. John Cena actually does a better job acting-wise than he did in THE MARINE. He plays Danny in a simple, determined, and sort of likeable way. He can also handle the action stuff decently - running, jumping, and climbing all over the place. I just wish the role was fleshed out more and it allowed Cena to emote a bit because the man does have charisma and presence. But given the quality of the script, that wasn't gonna happen.

Wait...do you hear that Cena? I think Dwayne Johnson is laughing at you. Hmmm.

Aidan Gillen was probably the best actor as the villainous Miles Jackson. While a complete dumbass story-wise, Gillen makes the character sort of funny in a suave and sophisticated way. I kind of wished he were in a better action film because I could totally buy him in the role if better material was involved. Ashley Scott is just the eye candy as Molly. She looks bored and acts like she's sleepwalking through the role. I don't blame her. What fun is it to just act kidnapped? At least make her show a boob or something! She's hot AND can act!!! Steve Harris was good as George Aiken. He convinced me with his prick attitude. Brian J. White was also decent as the best friend. He definitely was more fun to watch than Cena and Scott. Why were these two the main focus again?


- Danny said that "you get two things when you're a cop: a gun and a badge." Apparently the steroids led to the loss of his nightstick. Ooh...BURN!!

- Molly told Danny that even though he had 10 minutes until he started his shift, it would only take him 2 minutes to finish his romantic "duties". Looks like someone was given an "Attitude Adjustment"!

- Miles shot Hank in the ass. Save that kind of shit for your social life. You're on duty, Officer!

- Miles kidnapped Molly fairly easy. For someone who is the daughter of both Batman and Catwoman, I expected more out of her.

- Danny had to toss an explosive in the river after the round was over. Lucky there were no ducks around because some days you just can't get rid of a bomb.

- Round 6 involved an elevator free falling to the ground that held Danny and the pleasantly plumb, Willy [insert your killer whale jokes here], the hotel manager. Even though Willy didn't live to be on the show, he's obviously The Biggest Loser.

- When FBI agents are put on hold, Barry Manilow plays in the background. I don't see the problem. Music and passion were always in fashion at the Copa...

- Only Danny's thumbprint on some detonator can save Molly's life. I don't know how Miles got Danny's thumbprint, but any thumb is better than a five knuckle shuffle.

- Fellow WWE Wrestler, Mark Henry's, "Sexual Chocolate" theme song played at the end of the film. Unless this is a sign that Mark Henry is in the next WWE film and he's not playing Fat Albert or Predator, then it's time for Vince McMahon to just quit the whole film thing. It's bad enough I'm getting THE MARINE 2. [-shivers-]

What could have been a fun film turns out to be a flop called 12 ROUNDS, which happened to be 8 rounds too many for me. It's not the worst WWE Films project but it's far from the best, which still happens to be THE CONDEMNED. If Renny Harlin had played the film as a silly sort of thing like THE TRANSPORTER and CRANK films take pride in, 12 ROUNDS would had worked exceptionally. But since it was taken seriously, it fails. If you're a John Cena or Renny Harlin fan, wait for it on cable or something. Otherwise, don't bother.


  1. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobJuly 9, 2009 at 2:39 PM

    How can ashley scott still be such a hot chick at age 32, maybe hollywood chicks last better than the birds around where i live.


  3. This movie was terrible, I agree. I'm so sick of hearing people say it's a return to 90s action - that's an insult to the 90s.

    A couple of other things to add:
    New Orleans does not have any hills, so the idea of the St. Charles streetcar rolling downhill out of control is frankly embarrassing.
    Also, the sheer girth between Cena's nose and upper lip is distracting ("horse face" as they call it in the steroid community).
    Finally, Aiden Gillen can be seen wasted as a bad guy in another movie: Shanghai Knights. He is at his best as semi-sleaze hottie in the UK version of Queer as Folk.


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