07th Sep2018

‘Final Score’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Dave Bautista, Pierce Brosnan, Ray Stevenson, Amit Shah, Martyn Ford, Kamil Lemieszewski, Ralph Brown, Lara Peake, Lucy Gaskell, Alexandra Dinu | Written by Jonathan Frank | Directed by Scott Mann

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Dave Bautista’s solo action career continues its hot streak (see also: Bushwick) with Final Score, a ludicrous-but-fun Die Hard homage that sees the big man taking on terrorists at a football match in London. The film might have its flaws, but it delivers enough action-packed entertainment to ensure Bautista won’t be facing relegation anytime soon.

As established – albeit to outlandish extremes – in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Bautista’s screen persona is essentially strong-but-sensitive, and he sticks closely to that template for his portrayal of US military specialist Michael Knox, who arrives in London to visit the widow (Lucy Gaskell) and teenage daughter (Lara Peake, as Dani) of his fellow soldier and best friend, who’s recently been killed in action.

With Dani having become something of a tearaway, Knox takes her to the European Cup Final (West Ham vs the somewhere-in-Eastern-Europe Dynamos) in the hopes of straightening her out, but their bonding session is soon put on hold when it transpires that a group of Sokovian terrorists (a presumably deliberate nod to Avengers: Age of Ultron) have secretly locked down Upton Park stadium and are threatening to blow it up unless their demands are met. With the aid of hapless steward Faisal (Amit Shah), Knox attempts to take down the terrorists and save the day, but things take a turn for the worse when they target Dani to flush him out.

Director Scott Mann packs Final Score with a rich variety of action sequences, meaning that once the terrorists are discovered, you’re never too far away from a thrilling, close-quarters punch up, an exciting chase sequence or a jaw-dropping stunt (one particular punch-the-air highlight involves a motorbike jump across the stadium roof). He also orchestrates some spectacularly brutal fight scenes – most notably an encounter with a deep-fat fryer that will give you flashbacks to the famous moment in Spooks. Crucially, the film learns one of the most important lessons from Die Hard, so Bautista’s Knox sustains a number of nasty injuries along the way, heavily underlining the fact that he’s by no means invincible, despite his imposing physical stature.

Admittedly, Final Score isn’t entirely without flaws. For one thing the already ridiculous plot is needlessly convoluted, with Ray Stevenson’s Sokovian warlord patiently using crowd-scanning technology to find his long-thought-dead brother (a hilariously over-bearded Pierce Brosnan) in the stands and a less than convincing set-up involving a watching crowd back in Sokovia who are poised for revolution. Similarly, some of the acting is a little disappointing – Stevenson and Brosnan both underplay it, when the film could probably do with them both camping it up a bit more, and the assorted henchmen (and henchwoman) are thinly sketched. That said, Bautista has a strong handle on both the action and the emotion, while Shah gives terrific comic support as Faisal, even managing to pull off a joke that could have gone spectacularly wrong (it skirts dangerously close as it is).

As Die Hard homages (or, if you’re feeling less generous, rip-offs) go, Final Score is one of the better offerings, delivering satisfying doses of both thrills and humour. In other words, Bautista’s solo action career continues to go from strength to strength, which is probably just as well, given the current up-in-the-air status of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise.

*** 3/5

Final Score is in UK cinemas now, the film is also available to watch now on Sky Cinema.

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