Sunday, March 29, 2009

All right, Cena. You've done action films, now you gotta hit the drama circuit and play Matt Damon's steroid-abusing brother. It's gold, Cena, gold!

Hulk Hogan may be one of the most popular wrestlers ever, but his movies were complete garbage, except for No Holds Barred, which was at least very entertaining garbage. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper wasn't as popular, but when he took a shot at the movie biz, he came out with a damn good movie (and certainly the best movie starring a wrestler) called They Live. Neither wrestler had much success in their movie careers, though. It wasn't until Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson came out and started having hit after hit with movies like The Scorpion King and The Rundown, that the idea of a wrestler becoming a Hollywood movie star became more possible. Based on that, I guess Vince McMahon figured to strike while the iron was hot and set up his own movie production company, WWE Films, where he could produce his own flicks featuring other wrestlers from his stable.

The latest is a flick starring John Cena called 12 Rounds, which I didn't know existed until I saw a listing for it at my local movie theater's website last Friday. I was ready to blow it off because Cena's last movie was The Marine, which could've been a cool trashy action movie, and it managed to be one for the first 20 minutes and the last 10, but too much of the movie was taken up with dull run-of-the-mill bullshit and lame-ass attempts at humor.

But then I noticed that 12 Rounds was directed by Renny Harlin, and if there's anyone who could bring both "trash" and "action" to the proceedings, it's that dude. The movie poster for 12 Rounds advertise it as being "From the director of Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger", which is kinda fucked-up, because it's basically telling you that homeboy hasn't made a flick that was worth a damn since 1993. But don't worry Renny, I still give a damn. I've bought a ticket to all of your flicks and whether they were genuinely good movies or awful pieces-of-shit, I still found them entertaining all the same and that's how you got me to spend 5 bucks for a matinee showing of your latest.

So in this flick, Cena plays a New Orleans beat cop, who along with his hip & funny & black Dead Meat partner, takes down an international terrorist/arms dealer from Ireland. Because what's threatening our national security right now are those damn Irish terrorists, right? Anyway, while this shit was going down, the terrorist's hot girlfriend gets her stupid fine ass run over by an SUV, so now O'Sama McLaden blames Cena for it. He vows revenge before being hauled off to the clink and the movie then jumps forward to one year later. Cena and his partner Dead Meat have since been promoted to plainclothes detectives and everything's fine and dandy in their world. They kick back at the local bar and play pool. Dead Meat is doing the usual black comic relief thing and trying to pick up as many chicks as he can, while Cena has this troubled look on his face that tells us that He Still Remembers. Dead Meat's like "Forget about that shit and live life" and Cena's like "I don't know, man...". Well, he'll know all too well pretty soon.

He wakes up for work the next day, and since he works the night shift, his alarm clock sounds off at 4:58 pm. I liked seeing that. Maybe it's because you don't see too many movies where people have to work the night shift, except for maybe Night Shift. I remember I used to work nights back in the day, and I'd always flash back to that Michael Keaton/Henry Winkler flick to calm me down whenever I started feeling like some kind of outcast freak for working those hours. I'd also think about John Larroquette and Markie Post and that fucking magician in Night Court too.

We also find out that Cena's cute wife works night hours as well, as a MedEVAC pilot for the hospital, and you wonder if her helicopter flying skills will somehow work itself into the movie. If so, then Wow! What a surprise! She gives him some shit because of a leaky faucet and then takes off for work. Shortly after that, a plumber shows up to fix the faucet and Cena gets a call on his cell phone. It's O'Sama McLaden, telling him that he's broken out of prison and is going to take away from Cena what Cena took away from him (he's talking about the woman in their lives, by the way). If Cena wants to save his wife's life, he has to complete 12 challenges throughout the city and that's how we have our title.

Back in my Benjamin Button "review", I mentioned that the movie appeared to have been written using the Forrest Gump template. I understand they've since made YouTube videos demonstrating this, which obviously means I started all of that, with my blog that no one reads. Well, the same shit happens here in 12 Rounds, the writer must've used the Speed template when writing this. But he tried to be crafty and throw us off by tossing in some Die Hard with a Vengeance in there as well. Someone at the IMDB commented on this by calling 12 Rounds "Speed with a Vengeance" and that's sounds about right to me.

In both Speed and 12 Rounds, the hero is in a fucked-up situation with the bad guy because he foiled the bad guy's previous plan. In Speed, the bad guy shows the hero he means business by blowing up another bus, killing an innocent driver in the process. In 12 Rounds, the bad guy shows the hero he means business by blowing up the hero's house, killing an innocent plumber in the process. Speed has a sacrificial lamb in the form of some older lady who gets killed while trying to get off the bus. 12 Rounds' sacrificial lamb is a poor fat Samoan security guard who gets mixed up in Cena's business. The hero in Speed has a partner who is obvious Dead Meat. The hero in 12 Rounds has a partner who is obvious Dead Meat. Both Dead Meat partners will meet their ends after breaking into the bad guy's hideout. Both Dead Meats are done in by explosives. And so on.

The Die Hard with a Vengeance comparisons all have to do with the hero having to run his ass all over the city to complete certain tasks and challenges. Also, the final twist in the movie where we find out what the bad guy was really up to with all this madness, yeah, that's a big rip of DHWAV, too. I don't even have to tell you, you probably already know if you've seen that shit.

So I think I've made my point and hammered it in all the way about how this movie is derivative. And yet, in spite of knowing where all this shit was going and having seen it done before, I still had a good time. It's kinda like when I saw the first Resident Evil movie, the whole time I'm recognizing scenes from Aliens, the original Dawn of the Dead and even a deathtrap from Cube. But it was still fun to watch.

Harlin keeps everything going fast to keep your interest and the action is well-done, which is expected when you have the director of The Long Kiss Goodnight calling the shots. Cena's not the greatest actor, but he does all right with this movie. I actually found the dude likable. Plus, the poor guy is always going on about what a fuckup he is and how he fucked up the latest challenge, and I can't help but root for the guy and tell him not to be so hard on himself. At least twice he says out loud that his wife is as good as dead. That's pretty funny, but it also works to have your hero act so openly helpless in front of others like that.

I was with it until the final reveal, then it starts to get kinda lame and a little more ridiculous than the movie already was. I was comfortable with the level of ridiculousness this movie was on, then it changes into Transporter-levels of ridiculousness and that was a little too jarring. Nothing wrong with going over-the-top Transporter style, just let a brotha know ahead of time, you know what I'm sayin'? I was drinking Diet Coke then all of a sudden you switched cups on me and now I've got fuckin' Mountain Dew in my mouth and while I love both, I wasn't ready for that shit so now I've got coughed up fuckin' Dew all over my shirt. Thanks a lot, dick.

Aside from the climax, 12 Rounds knows what it is, it does its job and it does it well. The action scenes are cool, you root for the hero to succeed and you root for the bad guy to fail. Is it original? Fuck no. Is it a good time? I thought so. But it bombed this weekend anyway so who gives a fuck, aside from me? Well, there's one guy out there who probably isn't happy about this at all, and I bet you he's cleaning house over at WWE Films right now as we speak: