Renny Harlin’s 12 Rounds attempts to put the final nail in the coffin of the static shot. And just about the only thing that keeps its technical offenses from reaching greater heights is how damn boring it all is. At once feeble, overreaching, and completely derivative, the film’s cinematography might suggest a MADtv parody of a Paul Greengrass film were it not so utterly representative of the mounting technical streamlining and aesthetic simplification of the medium. Call me cynical, but Mike Judge’s Idiocracy (and it’s Oscar-winning film-within-a-film, Ass) feels more like reality with each passing week.
Sure, this is WWE Studios we’re talking about, even if the film is a relative masterpiece on the heels of leading man John Cena’s previous film, The Marine. As he was likeable even in that trash, it’s no surprise that 12 Rounds musters more energy from the star wrestler’s affable persona than the sum of its remaining elements, and I, for one, hope that someone in this universe gives the man a role in which his charm can do more than fill in the spaces on a Hollywood paint-by-numbers template.
Here, the title refers to a series of games devised by the film’s supposedly genius terrorist Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen, in a performance seemingly modeled after Robert Downey Jr.’s bravura Iron Man smartassery, to piss-poor results), a baddie with a grudge against Detective Danny Fisher (Cena) and seemingly more connections and multitasking abilities than Heath Ledger’s Joker. Speed meets Die Hard meets lip service to Hurricane Katrina via the film’s context-deprived New Orleans setting meets some of the most hilarity-inducing detective work this side of National Treasure, wham, bam, no thank you ma’am; only the race to stop an out-of-control trolley car gives the film a momentary flicker of a pulse. In fact, so lifeless is 12 Rounds that one could argue against its classification as a motion picture. A more accurate—and edifying—means of consumption would be to focus on the thunderous, if completely artless, score and consider the visual accompaniment merely incidental.