My second WWE Studios film of the week, this time with Dean Ambrose as a cop framed for a crime he didn’t commit. With such an original concept, how can it fail?
Back in 2009, the newly rebranded WWE Studios had a pretty ambitious plan to make films with well know directors and co-stars. They made a series of films with modest budgets that made little to no money back in DVD sales, and led to a change in strategy. But in that time we got Patricia Clarkson and Danny Glover in Legendary alongside John Cena, Modern Family’s Ariel Winter and Kevin Corrigan starring with Triple H in The Chaperone, and Ed Harris and Randy Orton in That’s What I Am. There was also another Triple H film Inside Out, with Michael Rapaport and Parker Posey, which had a much harder edge than most of their other output. For me however, the highlight of this period was 12 Rounds, directed by Speed and Die Hard 2′s Rene Harlin, which starred Aiden Gillen (Game Of Throne’s Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger, my personal favourite character) setting a series of traps for heroic cop John Cena.
A sequel (12 Rounds: Reloaded) followed a few years later, this time with Randy Orton as a paramedic who is set a series of trials by a man whose wife he had failed to save. The budget was smaller, Orton was a bit dull in the lead, and it lacked the zip of the original
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown (directed by Stephen Reynolds) is a totally new story, with Dean Ambrose playing Detective John Shaw. I will get one thing out of the way: it’s a standalone film that has been shoehorned into the 12 Rounds franchise. Whereas the previous films had bad guys setting twelve traps for our heroes to overcome, Die Hard With A Vengeance-style, this time Shaw has twelve bullets in his gun. There’s a terrible 15 seconds where Shaw says “12 rounds left” followed by a cut to another location where another character confirms “the building is in lockdown.” Peter Griffin is applauding somewhere.
Anyway, before we see Shaw roll into work in his yellow Chevrolet Camaro (I think) for his first day back at work, the film opens with a confrontation between George Freemont, a drug dealer, and Detective Tyler Burke (Roger Cross, who you might recognise as CTU’s Curtis Manning from 24). Burke and his team have tracked the man to his apartment, but the late night arrest takes a different turn, as Cross is in partnership with Freemont. He is there to delete any evidence of their relationship, and take full control of the operation. He does so (with a brilliant shot of someone shooting a laptop with a gun) and then kills his erstwhile partner. Crooked cop villain suitably established!
Then, as mentioned, we see Shaw return to work after an enforced medical hiatus. There was an incident that led to him and his rookie partner being shot. Shaw survived, but his partner didn’t. He is largely ignored by the rest of the precinct, apart from new recruit Officer Jenny Taylor (Sarah Smyth). When Cross starts work, he is applauded by the whole bullpen, getting congratulated for taking out the drug dealing Freemont, having framed the murder as self defense. Shaw and Cross don’t get along, with some spikey dialogue between the two, with Cross not being too welcoming to Shaw.
The two have another meeting at the shooting range, where we see that Shaw hasn’t recovered properly, and is struggling with his aim. Cross meanwhile, is a hotshot, and has a much bigger gun (pointing out that Shaw’s gun only holds twelve rounds).
The autopsy on Freemont turns up a flash drive disguised as a credit card, that Officer Taylor logs into evidence, and as a matter of procedure she tells the investigating detective, which obviously is the crooked Burke. Knowing that is almost certainly contains incriminating evidence, Burke and his team head down to the evidence room to destroy it. However, on a hunch Shaw has gone to collect it himself, and now that he knows the truth, he becomes the target for Burke. A fire alarm later and the evacuated station is put into lockdown, and Shaw has to escape with just… twelve rounds in his gun.
What follows is a pretty by the numbers single-location thriller, but Ambrose’s performance keeps it interesting. Burke’s team hunt Shaw, and he comes up with some ingenious ways to take them out. He is not a ruthless killer however, he is a decent cop and tries to reason with the various corrupt cops. This leads to what is probably the best use of a taser I’ve seen in a long time.
I mentioned in my Countdown review that with the right film, Dolph Ziggler could make it into my next Snooty Rumble with the right film. I reckon Dean Ambrose has earned his spot in it already. He’s got an engaging screen presence about him, and although he doesn’t overdo it, he’s a wise-cracking badass that wouldn’t be out of place in a low budget 80s Kurt Russell rip-off.
And to be frank, that’s what this film is: a low budget thriller. Some of the explosions and gunfire sequences look a bit cheap, but I really, really liked this. Roger Cross does a really good job as the villain, and Ambrose makes a very impressive debut. It does what it says on the tin, and much better than Countdown, although it does have exactly the same last scene as its ending.
So, like I said, a pretty straight forward, by-the-book thriller, but Dean Ambrose (and Roger Cross) make this worth watching. This is one of the better WWE Studios films, and definitely the best of their recent direct to DVD/VOD era. Enjoy!
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
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