Lunar Cycle #3 - 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded (2013)/ Inside Out (2011)/ The Reunion (2011)/ Bounty Hunters (2011)

This new section of the blog is due to me being lazy, I mean swamped with watching so many films that I want to discuss on this blog. But I don't really have the time, so I decided to quickly [well as much as I can really] to review films I don't really want to focus too much time on. You'll be seeing these more often than not. Time for the reviews!

Roel Reine

Randy Orton - Nick Malloy
Cindy Busby - Sarah Malloy
Brian Markinson - Patrick Heller
Tom Stevens - Tommy Weaver
Venus Terzo - Detective McKenzie
Sean Rogerson - Detective Sykes

Genre - Action/Thriller

Running Time
- 95 Minutes

EMT Nick Malloy (Randy Orton) is thrusted into a deadly cat-and-mouse game by Patrick Heller (Brian Markinson), who knows Nick from a moment in their past. The game involves 12 rounds, with Nick having to pass most of them in order to save his wife's (Cindy Busby) life, as well as the lives of others. Nick must follow this madman's plans, as well as evade cops who think he's a terrorist, while figuring out why he's been picked as this game's contestant.

WWE Studios released an action-thriller with John Cena called 12 ROUNDS back in 2009, which pretty much bombed in theaters - but had a longer life on home video and cable. Although no one really asked for a sequel, especially yours truly, WWE Studios was at least smart enough to give 12 ROUNDS 2: RELOADED a direct to DVD release in order to gain some sort of profit. Instead of Cena reprising his role, the spotlight goes to Randy Orton [the son of Bob Orton, Jr.] and current WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Orton was given the role after he was fired from starring in THE MARINE 3: HOMEFRONT [which eventually went to Mike "The Miz" Mizanin, who will reprise in THE MARINE 4 coming soon], due to Orton's past issues in the military and complaints from certain members of the Armed Forces.

While 12 ROUNDS 2: RELOADED isn't a great action-thriller, I did find it slightly better than the first film. The first movie seemed way too over the top at times, especially when it came to the 12 rounds themselves. In the sequel, probably due to a lower budget, the rounds seem a bit more grounded and even plausible - well as much as they can be in a film like this one. However, the whole SAW inspiration is very much dated at this point, and 12 ROUNDS 2: RELOADED doesn't do anything with the concept to change it so it feels fresh. It feels kind of lazy at times because the 12 rounds is really just an obstacle course where you have to steal cars, kidnap people, or drive to a certain destination before a timer runs out. It's not horrible or anything, but no new ground is broken. But at least there seems to be a focus that the first film lacked somewhat, and the game is kind of fun to watch on a brainless level.

The characters aren't deep enough for anyone to know who they are. The situation that puts Nick in this game is extremely convoluted, but at least makes sense within the story. I do like that our main character is an EMT though, rather than the stereotypical cop. It makes his quest to save lives more plausible. Too bad everyone around him, including his hot wife [who happens to be blonde, of course] and the stock villain [who talks rather than acts] are pretty uninspired. The Tommy character is an interesting sidekick, only because actor Tom Stevens gives the character some life and seems to be having fun. The dialogue and the road to the conclusion are definitely generic and pedestrian.

The direction isn't that bad, honestly. It doesn't have a ton of style going for it. But the picture quality is nice and the pacing is pretty good. There are moments of tension and suspense that work as well. The visuals won't change the world or anything, but I wasn't expecting anything special from a direct-to-DVD feature from WWE.

The acting is also decent. Randy Orton isn't much of an actor in terms of emoting. But he's definitely a physical presence and looks like a bad ass. His line delivery is adequate enough I guess, and I'm sure fans of the guy [there are many, especially female] who will enjoy him here. Cindy Busby is your typical wife/damsel-in-distress. Brian Markinson seems to have a bit of personality and range [I dug his intensity], but man - his character is just your token James Bond villain in a lot of ways. He deserved a better role honestly. But at least he kept the film's energy up. The other actors are hit-and-miss, but nothing too terrible really.

All in all, 12 ROUNDS 2: RELOADED was more entertaining than I was expecting it to be. I wasn't a big fan of the first one, but the sequel slightly exceeded my lowered expectations. The action is competent enough. The direction is okay. The acting wasn't the worst. And the predictable storytelling worked for this film. It's a fun, easy watch that you probably won't remember once it ends. Harmless, brainless entertainment that's unfortunately too uninspired to take a risk and try something new. Hopefully Randy Orton gets a better role [and film] than this one.

SCORE - 2 Howls Outta 4

Artie Mandelberg

Paul "Triple H" Levesque - Arlo Jayne
Michael Rapaport - Jack Small
Parker Posey - Claire Small
Michael Cudlitz - Detective Calgrove
Bruce Dern - Vic Small

Genre - Crime/Drama

Running Time - 93 Minutes

Arlo "A.J." Jayne (Paul Levesque) has just been released from prison after serving 13 years for killing a man who tried to take the life of his best friend, Jack (Michael Rapaport). Out, A.J. wants to live a simple life and stay out of trouble. However, Jack is rapped up in his father's (Bruce Dern) criminal business, and he gets A.J. into his messes all over again. Can A.J. get out, or will Jack send him back to jail for round 2?

I have three words for INSIDE OUT:


This has to be one of the most boring films I've ever seen in my life. I'm not even sure what this film is supposed to be. Is it a mob film? Is it a drama about relationships and how they change? Is it an unintentional comedy about pickles [A.J. wants to be a pickle maker and the characters constantly eat pickles]? Is this film made for wrestling fans, or for housewives on the Hallmark Channel? This movie did absolutely NOTHING for me.

The story itself is pretty dumb. Jack's dad is in the bootleg CIGARETTE business! Really? That's the best you can come up with? Selling cigarettes on the black market, which leads to people getting shot and/or killed? There's even an investigator who threatens about the whole deal that doesn't really go anywhere. And A.J. is caught up in it because Jack wants to prove to his father that he can run the business. On paper, maybe this looked interesting. But the script doesn't do anything important with it and you're left scratching your head as to why anyone bothered.

Even the relationships between the characters, which honestly seems like the focal point, is just dull. A.J. is conflicted between his past and his potential future, which is a great character arc. However, it's predictable in how that evolves. He's protective of Jack, his best friend, who just happens to be married to A.J.'s old girlfriend. And when A.J. learns this, he doesn't even react to it! I guess "bros before hos" doesn't apply in this world. In fact, no one really reacts to anything in this film. One character gets shot after a supposed betrayal, only to be brushed off five minutes later as if it was no big deal. ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?? WHO WROTE THIS SHIT??

The worst thing about INSIDE OUT is that it's just slow, boring, and meanders towards the finish line. I had to watch this film in multiple sittings because I was falling asleep. This movie was a true waste of my time.

The direction isn't all that impressive. Again, the picture quality is nice. But the pacing is way too slow. The editing is strange at times. And there's no real sense of tone or mood in this flick. How is that possible?

The acting is probably even worse. Parker Posey should be embarrassed by her performance. She has to pull off this fake accent that sounds awful coming out of her mouth. And she doesn't have any chemistry with either Triple H or Michael Rapaport in this movie. Hell, Posey had more chemistry with Triple H in BLADE: TRINITY! Bruce Dern is cashing a check, although he tries to be an interesting foil. Thankfully NEBRASKA saved his career. And Michael Rapaport - God... I usually like the dude, but his performance here is just grating! He has so much dialogue to deliver, that it sounds like he can never shut up. It's just too much and Rapaport is all over the place with his performance. I couldn't deal with him. I blame the director for not reining him in a bit.

Honestly, Paul "Triple H" Levesque had the best performance in the film. He's not amazing or anything. But he plays A.J. in a subtle way that comes across as natural, somewhat mysterious, and kinda endearing. The Rock won't be shaking in his boots any time soon, but Triple H was the highlight of this miserable movie.

All in all, INSIDE OUT should be avoided if you value your time. Triple H is the best thing about this film and he has no chance of saving it. It's dull and confused. It's just overall lame. Life's too short to waste one's time on INSIDE OUT. I took one for the team. There's nothing to see here.

SCORE - 0.5 Howls Outta 4

Michael Pavone

John Cena - Sam Carey
Ethan Embry - Leo Carey
Amy Smart - Nina Carey
Boyd Holbrook - Douglas Carey
Michael Rispoli - Canton
Gregg Henry - Wills
Lela Loren - Theresa Trujillo
J.D. Garfield - Verdugo

Genre - Action/Drama/Comedy

Running Time - 96 Minutes

After the death of her father, Nina (Amy Smart) wants to fulfill his final wish - bringing the family back together. The problem is that her three brothers are pretty estranged for various reasons, never really getting along. Sam (John Cena) is a suspended cop who keeps a wall up. Leo (Ethan Embry) is an insecure bail bondsman who always puts his foot in his mouth. And Douglas (Boyd Holbrook) is a 20-year-old thief just released from prison, never realizing he had two older brothers and a sister.

Nina tells her brothers that each of them will get $3 million each if they manage to form a business together and keep it running for 2 straight years. While the idea doesn't interest Sam or Leo, who hate each other, Leo's financial woes change his mind. Apparently, a convict who's worth a ton of money is suspected to be part of the kidnapping of a wealthy businessman held for ransom down in Mexico. Leo convinces Sam and Douglas to help bring him in so he can get paid. While reluctant at first, the brothers decide to help each other find this con, as they slowly begin to bond during their dangerous expedition.

Not being the biggest fan of John Cena's movies, I never really took THE REUNION seriously when I saw trailers for it 3 years ago. Although I was kind of impressed that WWE Studios managed to cast both Ethan Embry and Amy Smart in a film produced by them, I still had no real interest in watching this psuedo-western that tries to play out like a long Bonanza episode [which is mentioned in the film multiple times, unfortunately]. But figuring it's Wrestlemania Month and I'd probably have no other reason to watch this film, I gave THE REUNION a shot. And I gotta say - it wasn't half bad!

The story really isn't anything new. And the course it takes is very predictable. But Michael Pavone's screenwriting does have its positives. The dialogue is quite quirky, and even funny at times for all the right reasons. I thought the characters were fleshed out pretty well, and the banter between them was very amusing. It's obvious Pavone was inspired by Bonanza and by films like CITY SLICKERS and MIDNIGHT RUN. It's also interesting that the female characters in the film seem more level-headed and stronger than the men, as they tend to be the glue that brings the brothers together.

I do wish the story had added more action though. While being a character drama is great, the concept requires more exciting moments to carry the story along. We do get some gunfights and an action setpiece involving John Cena leaping across a canyon towards a helicopter. But there really isn't enough of it, which would have helped the western motif.

And the subplot with the kidnapped businessman seems like an afterthought, as not much is really done with it. I have a feeling there was supposed to be more to it than actually seen, as it has a pretty decent set up. But it never goes anywhere. It needs to be in the film for the brothers to bond by the film's end, so the businessman stuff should have had more of a focus.

The direction by Pavone is alright. It's pretty routine for the most part, with the action scenes never feeling intense, exciting, or having much important purpose. The picture quality is very nice though, and the film is decently paced. Scenes are nicely staged, but the visuals won't be memorable by the film's end.

The acting is probably the best part of THE REUNION. John Cena is probably the worst actor in the main cast, but even he's decent as the older brother, Sam. If you've watched him in WWE, you know the guy has charisma and personality. I kind of wish more of that was in display here, but he's not terrible. Ethan Embry is energetic as Leo, the talkative and eccentric brother. I thought he had good moments in the film. Boyd Holbrook played the pretty boy, soft-spoken and intelligent brother well. Amy Smart doesn't get a whole lot to do as the sister, but she's decent. None of the actors are bad and seem to be enjoying working together onscreen.

All in all, THE REUNION is a decent WWE Studios film. I wasn't expecting anything from it, and it exceeded expectations. It's a film that doesn't show its full potential in terms of story, action, or direction. But it still manages to work well enough to be entertaining and likeable. After the really boring INSIDE OUT, this was a refreshing watch. Definitely worth a rental.

SCORE - 2 Howls Outta 4

Patrick McBrearty

Trish Stratus - Jules
Frank J. Zupancic - Ridley
Boomer Philips - Chase Thomson
Joe Rafla - Hal Lambino
Christian Bako - Francis
Enrico DiFede- Mario Antonio
Andrea James Lui - Ruby

Genre - Action

Running Time - 80 Minutes

Jules (Trish Stratus) is a stripper by night and a bounty hunter for the rest. Her squad captures an informant (Enrio DiFede), who has a million dollar bounty over his head. Unfortunately, a mob boss (Joe Rafla) has a vested interest in him, wanting a trade with the bounty hunters. When they refuse, the mob boss sends his goons to capture the informant - leading to a showdown between the hunters and the goons.

I really only watched BOUNTY HUNTERS - also known as BAIL ENFORCERS - for one reason: 7-Time WWE Women's Champion and Hall of Famer, Trish Stratus. If you know anything about me, Trish Stratus was [still is] my women's crush since 2000. I would watch any match she participated in, or any segment she was a part of. I even own her DVD, which had a documentary and her best matches. I just dig this woman and was very curious about her first feature film, which she also produced.

Quite honestly, Trish Stratus is the best part of BOUNTY HUNTERS. She won't win any awards for her acting. But damn - the camera LOVES this woman. She's fetching, majorly charismatic and quirky, and can kick some ass on screen. In fact, she has the best fight scenes in the film, especially two with the awesome Andrea James Lui. Stratus uses her wrestling moves, her experience in yoga, and some Muay Thai she learned for the film to display some believable fight choreography. I thought the ambulance scene was quite great, in my opinion. Stratus is the glue that holds this film together. And you can definitely tell when she's not in the film, as the other actors and characters don't have the ability to carry the movie without her.

And that's the issue with BOUNTY HUNTERS - without Trish Stratus, this film is pretty much not worth your time. Sure, Boomer Phillips' character of Chase is actually funny as the comic relief, and Phillips does put in a good performance. But Stratus is the focus, and the 15 minutes in the middle where she's missing are quite bland and uninteresting. Plus the characters do really stupid things, like chasing an ambulance on foot when they have access to a car. And there's a lot of expository dialogue from most of the characters, explaining things at you rather than engaging you with this information. The villain in particular, Hal Lambino, is terrible at this since he has to explain why his presence is in the movie. Plus as a mob boss, he's one of the most stereotypical villains I've seen in a film in a very long time. He's trying to be a Tony Soprano type, but it's not working. And Jules "love story" angle with her boss, Ridley feels more like a father-daughter, as the two don't really have much chemistry together. Plus we get small subplots like Jules' daughter [who is never seen] and Chase's constant rejection from the police academy that are brought up more than once but never followed through with. What's the point then?

The worst part of the narrative is that it's a B-movie that takes itself way too seriously. This is a film that really should have had more camp elements to make it more fun than it actually is. It would have made the cookie cutter story feel fresh, instead of it feeling routine.

The direction also has its issues. The editing is pretty bad at times, to the point where you'll really notice that certain cuts don't match. Also, the last few fight scenes are done in long shots, with empty backgrounds. It looks amateurish and takes away from these scenes a bit. They should have been done in a close up for the most part. At least the film is paced well, as the 80 minutes breeze by. And the picture doesn't look too bad, although more lights could have helped some.

All in all, BOUNTY HUNTERS is watchable, but nothing you'll remember once its over. The only reason to watch is if you're a fan of Trish Stratus, who does quite well here and really deserves to be in more movies. Otherwise, you've seen this film before and done much better. 37.5% Stratusfaction Guaranteed.

SCORE - 1.5 Howls Outta 4


  1. Great reviews! This is all making me glad I avoid WWE films (although definitely not wrestling films. There's no way I can resist Toughest Man in the World starring Mr. T!).

    By the way, have you ever seen zombedy film Dead and Deader? I ask because there was a moment that made me think of your blog and laugh.

    1. Not all WWE films are terrible. But yeah, you have to really search for the decent ones.

      And I've never seen DEAD OR DEADER. What about it makes you think about my blog?

    2. There's a scene during the climax where two of the characters start talking about Dawn of the Dead, and argue about which version is better, and when the guy wonders why the woman's so passionate on the subject, she says she compared the two in an 'advanced film theory thesis paper'. It made me think of your double review, which was something like that.


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