VIDEO: The trailer for 12 Rounds
Nobody faults a fledgling action star if he can't act — we just want his persona to reach through the camera and pull us along through his character's ordeal. But in 12 Rounds, wrestling star John Cena fairly bounces off the lens.
He's an empathetic New Orleans police detective caught in the web of a psycho criminal (Aidan Gillen) who kidnaps his girlfriend (Ashley Scott) and puts him through 12 challenges. Lose a round and you risk the life of not only the girlfriend but also many innocent bystanders.
Nineties bad-boy director Renny Harlin shoots in a vérité style that longs for the vitality of the Bourne sequels but achieves nothing more than a jarring, quick-cut frenzy. Gillen's flippant heavy has been done to death, and the weak, Speed-derived script depends too much on coincidence and mind reading. The host city gets torn up good — as if it hadn't got enough problems, at least one character says — in that delusional PG-13 way where chases and explosions produce no civilian corpses.