One of the problems with WWE Studios movies, or at least the live-action ones, is that the wrestlers they use to star in them aren’t usually ones that interest me. I see enough John Cena as it is, thank you very much, and guys like Randy Orton and Triple H don’t exactly excite me as action heroes. Guys like Big Show and Miz are likeable enough in film roles, but they’re given such bad scripts that they end up sinking in crap.
When it was announced that Dean Ambrose would star in an action cop movie I was immediately down with the plan. Even though the guy has no experience doing actual acting, he’s a whirlwind of charisma and has made bad segments work due to his skills. Hell, he had me lock and stock since before he hit the WWE, doing rocking Heath Ledger-style promos like this.
Worst comes to worst, it’ll be a fun bad movie. But the very idea behind 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown was strong enough that this had potential to be truly worth checking out.
In the end, it’s not the worst thing to watch and that alone makes it a top tier WWE Studios movie.
Dean Ambrose plays detective John Shaw, a cop who just came back from leave due to an incident where he was shot and his rookie partner was killed. A former partner named Burke (Roger R. Cross) is deemed a hero for taking out a local drug lord, but he secretly did it because the two were doing business with each other and the drug lord was thinking of selling Burke out. An incriminating flash drive is found on the corpse and Shaw gets his hands on it. Burke finds out about this and puts the entire precinct on lockdown. The only ones left in the building are Shaw, Burke, Burke’s army of crooked cops, and an innocent rookie named Taylor (Sarah Smyth) who has no idea what’s going on. Shaw has to fight his way out of there armed with one gun and 12 rounds of ammunition.
This movie has absolutely zero to do with the other 12 Rounds films other than the title. This has led to a lot of jokes about how it’s “reverse Die Hard.” The first movie was basically Die Hard with a Vengeance while this is basically the first Die Hard.
It’s frustrating because 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown is good and almost great. Even though the Die Hard comparison is there, it’s original enough that it kind of works on its own. The threat is different and our hero is very different. John Shaw is not simply a repackaged John McClane. He’s a do-gooder, but not cartoonishly so, and that paints his purpose. He doesn’t want to coldly kill every bad guy like the badass action hero he is. He’s a good cop. He wants to bring them to justice. But he will kill when it’s his only option.
Ambrose is set up to fail because despite being a charismatic talker in the world of wrestling, he has nobody to work with here. If you’ve seen the trailer for the movie, you’ve heard a huge chunk of his lines. His lines are few and far between, leaving us with plenty of footage of Ambrose silently trying to make it look like he’s thinking or walking around, hunched over, with his gun out. Then there’s a big flaw in him getting a pretty major injury about halfway in and almost completely ignoring it for the rest of the movie.
Not to mention, he never seems all too psychologically affected from his rookie partner’s death despite everyone claiming he is.
Cross as Burke carries the movie. He’s expressive, aggressive, sinisterly charming, and hammers it home how screwed he and his cohorts are if they don’t put an end to Shaw. The stakes don’t just rely on Shaw’s side, but on the side of Burke, possibly even moreso.
Burke’s crew includes Gideon, played by Daniel Cudmore (AKA Colossus from the X-Men movies) and Darrow as played by Lochlyn Munro. You would remember him as Cliff from Dead Man on Campus. Seriously, few people remember ever seeing Dead Man on Campus, but when you see that guy show up in movies, he’s immediately identified as “Cliff from Dead Man on Campus.” You know you had that reaction when you saw Freddy vs. Jason.
It’s easier than remembering how to spell “Lochlyn” I suppose.
The movie’s credit goes to its logic and pacing. For a WWE Studios movie this is major as most of these movies’ screenplays have more holes in them than Swiss cheese. Most stuff makes sense in its own way that you are able to invest into it. There are flaws, such as when you ask yourself, “Why doesn’t he just steal that guy’s gun so he’ll have more ammo?” but the movie does a fairly good job explaining why Shaw has limited options, making his situation more and more claustrophobic.
Then the ending ruins it. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but the final two minutes are thoroughly ridiculous and not in a good action movie way. I’m not talking about, “Our hero throws a chainsaw at the bad guys so hard that explosions happen,” unrealistic. I’m talking about people acting completely unnaturally for the sake of wrapping things up to such an extent that it takes me out of the movie. Maybe your suspension of disbelief is stronger than mine, but I was just rolling my eyes at the climax, which is a huge shame, since I genuinely like the idea of the ending, which goes against expectations.
The action lacks pizzazz for the most part. It has its moments (most notably Shaw’s creative use of a taser that leads to something completely awesome), but it could gain from being more over-the-top. It would make it a lot more memorable. Though I will say that an explosion happens at one point and rather than be a, “Hell yeah!” moment, you’ll find yourself giggling at the terrible special effect and rewinding to watch it again.
Stephen Reynolds’ little action movie is a decent enough way to spend 90 minutes. If you expected a “so bad it’s good” cheesefest, you probably won’t find it. It’s competent enough, but feels like it could’ve been way better. It didn’t so much as drop the ball as it walked with it when it should have started running. Ambrose isn’t a lost cause as an action hero, but he certainly needs a better playground and people to actually play off of.
Gavin Jasper wouldn’t mind a sequel where John Shaw gets a new partner who is a beautiful Samoan man with long, luxurious hair. Follow Gavin on Twitter!