12 Rounds: Extreme Cut (Blu-ray)
Directed by Renny Harlin
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 109/110 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: June 30, 2009
Review Date: July 1, 2009
Renny Harlin’s cat and mouse action thriller 12 Rounds will remind you a lot of his own Die Hard 2: Die Harder. There’s a hero trying to thwart a villain and prevent his lady love from being killed in the process. Only here, the director is not dealing with a slate of big movie stars and a mega-budget. 12 Rounds is smaller in size and scale, but that’s not really a bad thing given the smaller personalities of the characters in the drama and a shorter, smaller focus of the antagonist’s objectives. The movie features a lengthy series of involving action scenes, and while it falls apart at the end with some really troubling plotting and has a star who’s still learning his craft, 12 Rounds isn’t an overall bad time. But it’s strictly an action exercise; there’s nothing subtle or smart about a minute of the film.
Beat cop Danny Fisher (John Cena) brings down one of the world’s great international arms dealers Miles Jackson (Aidan Gillen) when the F.B.I. gets hoodwinked by one of Jackson’s confederates. A year later, Jackson masterminds a prison break and kidnaps Danny’s girl friend Molly Porter (Ashley Scott) in order to send the now detective Danny Fisher on a series of timed missions around New Orleans which he likens to twelve rounds of a fight, seeing which one of them can outwit the other for each of the twelve “errands” he sends him on. Fisher’s partner Hank Carver (Brian White) does what he can to help, while possessed F.B.I. agent George Aiken (Steve Harris) is determined Jackson won’t get the best of him this time around.
The script by Daniel Kunka actually more closely resembles the first hour of Die Hard With a Vengeance as the two cops there are given riddles to solve while being sent around the city on what appear to be pointless errands. The script for 12 Rounds is likewise a mixture of riddles and stunts, all intended to draw the police and the F.B.I. away from the villain’s real goal. The screenplay stumbles badly, however, in the way the heroes figure out what’s actually going on and scramble to prevent it, and things go from bad to worse in the movie’s ludicrous dangling-from-a-helicopter ending. Until then, however, director Renny Harlin has directed some wonderfully involving action scenes from pursuits through neighborhoods and back alleys to a fire engine barreling down busy streets demolishing everything in sight to a very well crafted action sequence with a runaway streetcar possessing no brakes and our heroes scrambling to catch it and then get it under control. Action fanatics will enjoy the overabundance of chases and pursuits though others may feel that two or three of these are enough for one film.
Professional wrestler John Cena (his employer, the WWE, is a producing partner of the film) takes a second crack at legitimate movie stardom, and he’s definitely improving if still a bit too stolid and mannequin-like at times. Being a superb athlete, it’s clear he’s doing many of his own stunts which adds to the character's legitimacy. Aidan Gillen makes an excellent foil to Cena’s goodness as the ruthlessly intelligent criminal. Without a believable villain/puppet master pulling the strings, an action movie such as this would completely fall apart, but that doesn’t happen here. Steve Harris’ monomaniacal F.B.I. agent is such a complete and thorough louse that one longs for the moment when he gets his comeuppance. As Harris’ more reasonable and sympathetic partner Gonzalo Menendez makes a solid impression, quite a switch from the Latino drug lords he’s usually playing. Ashley Scott is an okay love interest, but as she spends most of the movie tied up as a helpless victim, her chances to shine are few.
The film’s 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness and dimensionality are very strong in this release with excellent contrast on display most of the time. Black levels are very good and color is generally robust though occasionally flesh tones waver a bit from looking natural to appearing slightly brownish. No DNR seems to have been applied to the transfer with the image having a very natural film-like appearance. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix keeps Trevor Rabin’s music score more toward the front soundstage and doesn’t let it become more immersive throughout the movie. The big crashes and explosions do get a good sound spread, but much of the film doesn’t take advantage of the rear soundstage nearly enough. There is a nice use of deep base in the LFE channel.
The Blu-ray offers both the theatrical cut (PG-13) and the unrated extended cut of the movie (which is only one minute longer and seems only to have a few more swear words and possibly a tiny bit more graphic violence).
There are two audio commentaries available for listening, but both are attached only to the extended cut of the movie. Director Renny Harlin has one track to himself in which explains his process and relates stories from the shoot. It’s a fine track though there are a considerable number of pauses during the film where he doesn’t talk. The other is a chattier commentary with screenwriter Daniel Kunka and star John Cena talking about their experiences with making the movie. Very good natured, it’s not as fact-filled as Harlin’s commentary (Kunka does more talking than Cena) but fans will likely want to listen to both.
“Streetcar Crossing: Film with Caution” details the events on each of the six days it took to stage and shoot the runaway streetcar sequence of the movie. On hand are the director, two producers, and the stunt coordinator to describe the work necessary for the sequence to be successful. It runs for 16 ½ minutes in 1080i.
“A Crash Course: John Cena” is an interesting featurette on the various training star John Cena underwent to be ready to drive the cars and fire engine, shoot the guns, and rappel from a ten-story building that he does in the movie. This runs for 9 ¾ minutes in 1080i.
It’s called a gag reel in the liner notes, but it’s actually just a series of behind-the-scenes shots of the cast and crew goofing off between shots. It’s in 1080i and runs for 4 ¾ minutes.
“Keeping Score: The Music of 12 Rounds” shows composer Trevor Rabin composing the music for the movie and conducting the orchestra for the soundtrack in this 3 ¼ minute brief piece in 1080i.
“Round and Round with Renny and John” finds the director and the star discussing their enjoyable working experience sharing memories of highlights of the filming. It’s in 1080i and runs for 4 minutes.
"Bonus Rounds" is a series of twelve featurettes dealing with many aspects of the production from the pug dog George to the boat stunt, the Eyemo cameras, the final fight, the storyboards, and the director’s microphone. They may be watched individually or in one 20 ¼-minute grouping.
The disc offers two alternate endings, both in 1080p, which are only slightly different from the ending as it now stands. They may be watched individually or in a 2-minute grouping.
Two silly viral videos find John Cena coping with an over-ambitious “hand double” and personal assistant in two video bits presented in 1080p and together lasting 3 ¾ minutes. They may be watched separately.
The disc offers 1080p trailers for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Marine 2, and Street Fighter.
A second disc in the case offers a digital copy of the film and instructions for installation on both Mac and PC platforms.
3/5 (not an average)
Pure action without a brain in its head, 12 Rounds is a fine time passer with its fast-paced action scenes and by-the-numbers construction. Some worthwhile supplements add value to the overall package.