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12 ROUNDS
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  John Cena, Aiden Gillen, Ashley Scott, Steve Harris, Brian White, Gonzalo Menendez
Director:  Renny Harlin
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.39:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  108 Minutes
Release Date:  June 30, 2009

“Sorry, Danny…I just love to play the game.”

Film ***

On the day I was finally planning to watch 12 Rounds, I actually got a call from my father.  He never gets enthused about anything, but he had just rented this action offering, and wanted to tell me “you gotta see this.”

Who am I to argue with Dad?  I’d been wanting to see it for a while anyway.  The previews and trailers looked quite promising, I was a fan of both WWE superstar John Cena and director Renny Harlin, and I hadn’t had a good action fix in some time…at least one that wasn’t either sci-fi or comic book related.

12 Rounds isn’t exactly The French Connection, but you can be forgiven if you think about that movie while watching this one.  Or a little Die Hard, or even Speed.  Interesting…those are also all Fox releases.  Hmm…

No, this is simply the kind of big, noisy, fun crowd-pleaser that Renny Harlin is noted for delivering.  He was the right man to bring John Cena’s second big screen endeavor to life, with his eye for large action sequences and stunts, as well as an ability to let actors work within their comfort range.

Cena plays Danny Fisher, a New Orleans cop who finds himself in the middle of a federal operation, as FBI Agent George Aiken (Harris) is closing in on one of the world’s most dangerous arms dealers, Miles Jackson (Gillen).  Miles is as brilliant as he is ruthless, and always seems to be one move ahead of his pursuers.  It’s almost by chance that Danny comes across him and arrests him, but not before Miles’ fleeing girlfriend is killed in a traffic accident.

One year later, and Danny has made detective and has settled into a life with his love Molly (Scott).  But he’s about to face a single day that would wear out Jack Bauer:  Miles has escaped from prison, seized Molly, and on the anniversary of his capture, is planning to put Danny to the ultimate test in order to save her.

Miles has concocted a series of challenges he calls “12 Rounds”.  Each one has high stakes, danger, and a very limited amount of time for Danny to make it through.  He has his partner Hank (Carver) on his side, and Agent Aiken in the way from time to time, but for Danny, it’s no longer about justice…it’s about keeping Molly alive.

You couldn’t be blamed for asking if a major international arms dealer and wanted man would waste so much time, energy and expense in playing a series of games with the man who captured him, but remember when I said Miles was always one step ahead of his pursuers.  By the time he squares of with Danny for a final confrontation, everything will come together in a satisfying way.

I never cared much for The Marine, John Cena’s first feature, but as I said, Renny Harlin was the right man for the job.  He knows where the adrenaline button is, and just when to start pumping.  His talent for action made Cena seem a much more comfortable star this time around.  Cena is by no means a classic thespian, but the ‘regular guy’ quality he possesses in wrestling works well here, and helps Danny Fisher become a worthwhile protagonist, a la John McClane.  And he does many of his own stunts as well.

In other words, don’t expect intellectual stimulus with this film, and you won’t be disappointed.  12 Rounds was made simply for your sense of fun and nothing further.  Trust me…father knows best.

Video ****

This is a terrific looking Blu-ray offering from Fox.  I noticed one minor touch of grain in one shot, but given how much action is here and how well the high definition platform delivers on it, I can’t dock it for that.  The detail level is amazing throughout, and the fast paced camerawork and stunts will demonstrate what a good investment your Blu-ray player was.

Audio ****

One of the aspects of this disc that most excited my father was the DTS HD audio, and he was right on again.  When the action starts, it stays fairly relentless, and all channels of your system will stay busy keeping up with the uncompressed audio signal.  Dynamic range is impressively strong, and signals are discreet and smooth, crossing over plentifully and flawlessly.  Dialogue is well balanced against it all, and the music score from Trevor Rabin is also a huge plus.

Features ****

This disc is loaded like a Blu-ray should be.  For starters, you can watch either the PG-13 theatrical version or an unrated ‘extreme cut’, which boasts a couple of F-bombs and maybe a bit more intensity in the action sequences.  If you watch the unrated version, you get a couple of commentary tracks, and both are fun listens.  Renny Harlin offers plenty of amusing insight into the making of the movie, while star John Cena and writer Daniel Kunka deliver a funnier and more laid back approach to discussing the film.  You can also watch two alternate endings, with or without the same two commentary tracks.

There are four major featurettes:  one on the streetcar chase, one on John Cena training for his own stunt driving, one on Trevor Rabin and the scoring, and one conversation with Harlin and Cena.  In addition, there are 12 shorter ‘bonus round’ featurettes, plus a gag reel (of sorts), and a bonus disc for a digital copy of the movie.

Oh, and the opening trailers show a straight-to-video release of The Marine II, starring Ted DiBiase.  I can’t WAIT to miss that one.

Summary:

12 Rounds is a total popcorn movie, but there’s a reason those are made…popcorn tastes good.  Renny Harlin and John Cena make for a formidable action team, and this quality Blu-ray issue offers plenty of good mindless fun.

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