Stars: Randy Orton, Cindy Busby, Brian Markinson, Chelsey Reist, Sean Rogerson, Jesse Hutch, Patrick Gilmore | Written by David Benullo | Directed by Roel Reiné
I reviewed the original 12 Rounds, which starred the WWE’s John Cena way back in 2009 and now, some four years later, the clumsily titled 12 Rounds 2 is set for a straight to DVD release – bypassing the cinematic release the original received – sans Cena, but with fellow WWE superstar Randy Orton in the lead role. And like it’s WWE Studios stable-mate The Marine (which also starred John Cena), this sequel bares no relation to the original film besides the “rounds” format – featuring all new characters, new situations and a new cast.
This time round (groan) Randy Orton stars as paramedic Nick Malloy, who finds himself caught in a deadly 12-round game of cat and mouse with a vigilante tied to the paramedic’s past. With little time to spare and his wife’s life hanging in the balance, the EMT must figure out why he’s been chosen to be the pawn in this maniac’s game before it’s too late.
Let’s get this straight. The 12 Rounds series is not high art. But what does mark the franchise out is its action. And 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded is balls-to-the-wall non-stop action… Literally. Opening with brief a prologue which sets up the story, the film switches into high gear once Orton’s EMT Nick receives the first phone call from mad man Heller (Markinson) who seeking his revenge for the events of the prologue. From then on out it’s action set piece after action set piece. Right up until the films closing moments. You can’t call this a boring movie, that’s for sure.
I’ve extolled the virtues of director Roel Reiné many times before here on Nerdly (and previously on Blogomatic3000), and he certainly doesn’t let me down with 12 Rounds 2. Having helmed the likes of The Marine 2 and Death Race 2 and 3, Reiné has made something of a name for himself as the go-to guy to direct straight-to-DVD sequels, especially if you want a completely action-packed flick. Fair enough The Scorpion King 3 may have been a stumbling point in Reine’s oeuvre, but pair him with a great script (which Scorpion King 3 most definitely didn’t have) and he’s guaranteed to pull of something truly watchable – no matter the budget. Thankfully the script by David Benullo (Around the World in 80 Days, Ra.One) keeps the story flowing by concentrating on the action and not letting any story get in the way. Of course if you’re looking for a story you’ll be disappointed, but then why are you watching a straight to DVD action movie for story? Go rent Les Miserables (and be more miserables) if you want a story. Me? I’ll stick to the awesome butt-kicking, car-exploding, gun-shooting, fist-punching action of 12 Rounds 2 thanks.
And speaking of butt-kicking and fist-punching, WWE superstar Randy Orton actually makes for a great hero. He’s obviously been trained to put on a good fight every night for the WWE and that skill set translates well to the screen as he shoots, punches and kicks his way through the twelve rounds of the title – and he sells the action well, taking as good as he gets and convincing as as a hard-as-nails EMT, turn vigilante hero.
Of course there’s no hero without a villain and Brian Markinson, who steps out of his straight man comfort zone to play mad man Heller, is the perfect foil for Orton. Whereas Orton delivers a Schwarzenegger-style (some would say monotone) performance, Markinson chews up the scenery in the way only great movie villains do – he’s the Hans Gruber to Orton’s John McClane. And yes, even this sequel still feels like a Die Hard 3 retread, as did the original… Which is not a bad thing in my book!
A sequel that, at least in terms of action, surpasses the original, 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded is out on DVD now.