In news that’s as curious to me as it is to you, WWE left the best til last. I stopped watching pro wrestling in 2006 or thereabouts (although I occasionally pop on a Wrestlemania for old time’s sake) so my knowledge of the current product is fairly limited; although I was aware of the star of today’s review, I’ve never seen him in the squared circle.
But any doubts about the acting ability of the lead ought to be allayed when you see the crew that was assembled round him by director Stephen Reynolds. You may know them as “That Guy!”, but to me they’re the glue that holds some of the best recent genre TV together. Roger Cross, Ty Olsson and Lochlyn Munro are crooked cops Burke, Harris and Darrow and are extremely solid hands, so kudos to the casting – there are plenty of other Canadian TV veterans on hand too.
Dean Ambrose (real name: Jonathan Good) is cop John Shaw, returning to work after a seven-month absence after his partner was shot on his first day on the force. Turns out a lot of people blame Shaw for the kid’s death and his return is not universally popular. But, the most popular cop in the precinct, Burke, is dirty as hell, having shot the only witness to his drug-dealing operation and (so he thought) destroyed all the evidence. But…the coroner notices a flash drive disguised as a credit card on the corpse, and because Shaw is bored and isolated, he looks into it. Photos of deals! Bad things going on!
Quickly, things degenerate, and we’re presented with an interesting spin on the dependable “Die Hard” template. Burke triggers the fire alarm and gets the police station locked down with just him and his crew, Shaw, and innocent cop Jenny Taylor (Sarah Smyth) inside. Not sure how useful it is to be able to lock a police station up so tightly that no-one can get in or out (including cutting all the phone lines and blocking mobile communication), but we’ll leave that issue for the moment. Whereas “Die Hard” was the right man in the right place by accident, this is like if Hans Gruber was a cop, and wanted to kill another cop, so locked up Nakatomi Plaza so he could kill him at leisure.
You may be wondering “where do they crowbar 12 rounds into this?” and the simple answer is, they don’t. Shaw and Burke are having a chat near the beginning, at the firing range, where they’re sort of angling for power, trying to get the upper hand, in a very nicely written scene. Burke sees Shaw’s boring police-issue gun, and notes it only has “12 rounds”, and that’s the sum total of the bullets Shaw has to use to try and win the day. One other thing – Burke mentions their history together, that they went through the academy at the same time. Roger Cross is actually 16 years older than Dean Ambrose (although Cross looks younger than his age, and Ambrose older than his), which makes it a slightly odd visual.
Burke has one friend, Captain Matthews (Rebecca Marshall) on the outside; and if you’ve ever seen a movie before, you’ll know at least one of the beautiful lady-cops is working for the bad guys. Which one it is, I’ll leave you to discover for yourselves.
Although it’s set in one location, there’s plenty of variety and they actually bother to do something with them. A shooting range, a server room, a roof, plenty of offices…one must give kudos to director Stephen Reynolds, who started in self-funded short films before moving to LA and knocking on doors til someone gave him a job. I imagine it would be very easy to take WWE’s dime and knock out the same old rubbish, because no-one really cares, but it seems he was interested in moving onwards and upwards (he also directed the WWE movie “Interrogation”, which we’ll be covering soon).
Ambrose is surprisingly good in the lead role, too. I completely believed he was a cop returning to work after the death of his partner, and he wasn’t embarrassed stood next to some decent actors. I’d be very happy to see him in more movies, so I hope WWE continues producing them, or he moves on and gets some normal action-movie gigs the same way Steve Austin and John Cena did.
No problem recommending this to everyone. It’s logically ridiculous (why didn’t he just smash a window and jump out of the building? Or just shout to the cops outside that everyone else was trying to kill him?) but put all that to one side, because why on earth are you this far down the cinematic ladder if you want logical consistency? You want action and fun and “12 Rounds 3” delivers in spades.
Rating: thumbs up