Danny Fisher (John Cena) is a New Orleans cop who lives with his girlfriend Molly (Ashley Scott) and their pet pug. Tonight he was on patrol, and Molly waved him off, not knowing that he would return a changed man, for also around in that evening was an international arms dealer, the criminal Miles Jackson (Aiden Gillen). He wasn't aware that the authorities had set up his latest deal as a sting operation, so was under surveillance by the law when he met with his contact at the docks - except that it was the law who had the wool pulled over their eyes...
12 Rounds was one of those movies which pitted a wrestler against a villain for a translation of their real life appeal to a fictional environment, not a gambit that many pulled off with any great staying power, but the star here, Cena, had appeared in a leading role before in The Marine, and fancied giving it another go. Obviously there was a prejudice for many moviegoers when it came to watching wrestlers trying to act, but surely in these cases seeing as how such performers had to tackle a spot of thespianism in the ring to drum up the crowd's excitement drawing on those skills was not going to be too much of a stretch for a simple action flick?
It was not as if Cena was offering us his Hamlet, after all, and as it turned out although there was no convincing some people he did a fairly serviceable job here given he was required to do little but run around a lot, drive fast, and trade barbs with Gillen's wavering-accented bad guy. The trouble was that plotwise 12 Rounds was essentially Die Hard with a Vengeance, as Jackson sets up a selection of trials for Danny to undergo much as Jeremy Irons had done with Bruce Willis, and even with the director of Die Hard 2 on board, Renny Harlin, there was no getting away from the fact that the earlier movie had been superior.
So with Jackson one of those Doctor Phibes for the twenty-first century, carefully setting up a series of traps for our hero to negotiate as lesser men fall by the wayside, that was, get killed in the kerfuffle, you had a story which lived or died by how ingenious Jackson was. Alas, for too much of the time this was like eavesdropping onto somebody's phone conversations, fine if you were a News International journalist, but pretty repetitive for everyone else as the scenes where Cena nattered on the phone to Gillen predominated. Honestly, about ninety percent of the movie seemed to be phone-related, great for the producer's product placement deal, not so engrossing for everyone else.
The reason for Danny agreeing to go through this ordeal is that, well, he doesn't have much opportunity to do otherwise when his house is blown up, but there's a romantic reason as well, for Molly has been kidnapped a year after he arrested Jackson and the criminal has spent that time devising a scheme to have his revenge. Plus there was the not-so-small matter of Danny being responsible, in his eyes, for the death of his girlfriend (Taylor Cole), but if you're sceptical of these grudges, then you would be rewarded with the big reveal of what was actually happening nearer the end. Except that it was just the same as the one in Die Hard with a Vengeance. In the meantime, you got a rerun of Speed with a runaway tram (having the same producer may well have been something to do with that), and saw Danny try to save an overweight man from an elevator shaft of doom, that sort of thing; there was nothing egregiously wrong with 12 Rounds, but neither was it top notch in its style. Music by Trevor Rabin.