Part 2 of this franchise is a fine example of “addition by subtraction” – by taking away the stylistic gimmicks and “big” names (relatively speaking) you get a simpler, more direct movie. Of course, that makes it more similar to the vast morass of “hero against the clock” efforts that have littered video shop shelves since time immemorial. Okay, the early 80s.
John Cena, perhaps the best of the WWE’s actors, hands over to Randy Orton, who’s…surprisingly okay. He’s Nick Malloy, an EMT – how many of these movies are going to star EMT’s? – and we begin with him and his wife Sarah (Cindy Busby) walking from a movie, where they saw a chick flick. Ah, women and their choices! Anyway, you’re right away confronted by the artifice of cinema, as they are walking through a completely empty landscape, nowhere near anywhere. Are they urban exploration enthusiasts? Were they just arguing about how far away from the cinema they had to park? Or did the people making this movie not expect idiots like me to pay so much attention to the background?
Anyway, a car crash happens right next to them, and Nick and Sarah rush to help. Nick rescues the driver of one car, a young man; he rescues the passenger of the other, an older chap, but is unable to rescue the driver, the older man’s wife. He seems like he’s done as much as possible, but one year later (I do love a “one year later”), he’s still upset by what happened. His partner comes to pick him up for a night shift, and almost immediately, events start occuring.
Whereas part 1 was almost to the half-way point before the 12 rounds happened, here it’s barely ten minutes. Someone who you wouldn’t recognise unless you were paying really close attention to that opening scene wants revenge on Nick, despite him being fairly blameless; much like part 1, he’s wired the city up good and proper to arrange 12 tasks for Nick to complete. If he “wins” a majority of them, the mystery villain will hand himself in to the authorities; if he loses, then his wife dies. Nick realises he’s for real when a guy with a bomb literally implanted in his stomach blows up his ambulance and almost kills his partner, so the game is on.
It’s high speed car chases and fighting cops and then, raiding a no-tell motel to kidnap a young guy. As I was paying attention at this point, I noticed he was the Governor’s son (a graphic on one of the villain’s hundreds of computer screens) and at that point, the big reveal, which is still 20 minutes of screen time away, becomes blindingly obvious. Cops start following the trail of destruction, but they’re smart cops who don’t immediately blame Nick; Nick and the Governor’s son, Tommy (Tom Weaver) become a sort of double act as they try and keep ahead of the 12 challenges. It’s sort of curious to have the drunk-driving drug abuser be the comic relief in a wrestling movie, but whatever.
Part 2 is a Canadian production, as can be gathered from the nondescript locations and the cast, almost entirely comprised of people you’ll recognise from the tons of genre TV produced north of the border. Most notable is villain Heller, played by Brian Markinson, who’s been in everything (I feel like he’s captained more police districts than I’ve had hot dinners). It’s directed by Roel Reine, who’s one of the WWE’s regulars, and unlike part 1’s Renny Harlin, directs in a very TV-movie fashion. Much less handheld stuff, shots are flat and clearly composed – whether this is a good thing for you or not will very much depend on your tolerance for handheld-for-its-own-sake (which is what part 1 was, I felt).
I liked it. Once again, I like Randy Orton, he does a blue-collar everyman pretty well (just one with an odd face and lots of tattoos) and I’d be happy to see him in more of these sorts of action movies – I guess he’s sort of a dick in real life, but I’m not paying to watch him in real life. The rest of the cast is solid and dependable too, so I’ve got no complaints on that score. The bad guy’s plan is once again crazily complicated, but you’ve got to leave those sort of complaints at the door. The most interesting thing, though, is how you want the villain to win, and how (up to the very last moment) the movie does too. He’s fighting back against a corrupt system, and if he’d left the honest EMT out of it, I’d have been happy with him being the shadowy central character. As it is, he has to go crazy and try to kill Nick and his wife, just for not doing his job the way he wanted. Ah well.
Solid and entertaining, I’d put this in the top bracket of WWE movies. Part 3 stars a guy whose entire wrestling career happened after I stopped watching, so we’ve got that to look forward to. See you then!
Rating: thumbs up