12 Rounds 2: Reloaded marks the second movie of the WWE Studios/20th Century Fox three-film deal (Deadline broke the news of the partnership back in early 2012, noting that WWE Studios would produce and promote the action-themed projects, while Fox would serve as distributors).
The Marine 3: Homefront, the first film of that deal, proved to be a smash hit when it was released back in March, selling a superb 153,000 copies in its first month, according to The-numbers.com. Impressively, it even managed to have better first-week sales than the WrestleMania 29 release.
Can 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded, which was released this past Tuesday, have similar success for WWE Studios? We'll have to wait and see.
But the film itself is actually pretty decent, even if it is sorely lacking in a few areas.
In the film, Randy Orton plays Nick Malloy, an EMT who finds his life thrown into turmoil when he is targeted by technical genius Heller (veteran Canadian actor Brian Markinson) while working a shift one evening.
Heller is out for revenge, you see, and Nick has unwittingly become tangled up in his plans. Similar to the original movie, our hero is forced to put his skills to the test and go through 12 rounds. As usual with WWE films, the life of his wife Sarah (Cindy Busby) hangs in the balance, too. Nick not only has to save her, but try and stop Heller's rampage of destruction around the unnamed city.
Drug-addled rich kid Tommy, played by Ted Stevens, is also targeted by the villain and ends up playing the joke-cracking sidekick to Nick for much of the movie.
Let's start by asking the obvious question: Can Randy Orton act? Not really.
Can he, however, get through the material without embarrassing himself or those around him? Yes. Hey, that's better than someone like Hulk Hogan can do.
Orton isn't helped by the script.
His character is rather bland and under-developed. He appears to have had a troubled past—at one point his wife hints he has spent time in jail—but has worked to turn his life around and be a productive citizen. That is seriously the extent of his character arc.
At one point he threatens Heller on the phone: "When am I going to see your face so I know whose a** I'm going to kick?" Even by low B movie standards, that line is bad.
The other characters are rather one-dimensional too. Busby tries her best, but there's only so much she can do. Sarah is nice, pretty and apparently worth saving from a master criminal. That's literally all we are told about her.
Heller could have been an interesting bad guy. Similar to Gerard Butler's character in Law Abiding Citizen, he's a good man driven mad by a flawed justice system. But his actions and motivations are so nonsensical.
His targeting of Nick and Sarah is illogical and even the film acknowledges it. Nor do his elaborate schemes and traps make any real sense.
If he wanted to kill everyone he felt had wronged him, why didn't he just do that? Why go to all that bother of 12 rounds? What would he have done if Nick had gotten himself killed or arrested early on in "the game" and ruined all his plans?
As I noted in my review, The Marine 3: Homefront worked so well because it had three-dimensional characters filled with genuine motivations and reasons for doing what they did. That's nowhere to be found here.
Thankfully, the great direction of veteran Dutch director Roel Reine (The Marine 2, The Delivery) manages to save the day and make the movie worth watching.
Filmed almost entirely at night, 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded is a gloomy, grimy movie strongly reminiscent of the Saw movies. The aforementioned Law Abiding Citizen also seems to have been an influence, with its themes of vigilantism and injustice.
12 Rounds 2: Reloaded is shockingly bleak at times. Law enforcement is presented as incredibly corrupt at nearly every level. Sympathetic characters get killed off unpredictably in rather gruesome ways.
Really, Nick doesn't "save the day" in any meaningful way. All he can do is simply try to limit the damage Heller is doing and get out with his own life, and his wife's life, intact.
The original 12 Rounds was essentially a fun action movie, it's sequel is a great deal darker, and all the better for it.
The action scenes are decent, too, and a ton of effort has clearly gone into them. Reine may not be the most high-profile director out there, but he certainly knows how to choreograph and film a fight.
For his part, Orton is obviously having a great time as he races around and gets into various car chases with the cops.
Credit to him, what he lacks in acting skills and natural line delivery, he makes up for in physical presence and charisma. Interestingly, that seems to be the story of his WWE career, too.
As for the third film of the Fox/WWE deal? That's yet to be announced.
But judging by the first two movies, I'm guessing we should expect the announcement that The Chaperone 2: And This Time It's Personal will soon be going into production.
DVD Extras: Thankfully, Fox and WWE put in the effort here. There are a few compelling "making of" vignettes, as well as an insightful audio commentary with the director.
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