Roel Reine’s “12 Rounds: Reloaded” is the sequel-in-name-only to the 2009 movie “12 Rounds” starring WWE wrestler Jon Sena. The direct-to-DVD sequel stars another WWE wrestler, this time Randy Orton, playing an EMT who gets roped into a life-and-death game with a maniac named Heller (Brian Markinson), who is intent on righting some wrongs by killing a lot of people, including our hero’s wife if he doesn’t play along. It appears the WWE is intent on launching in-name-only franchises, with “12 Rounds” following in the footsteps of “The Marine”, each film starring the WWE’s stable of popular wrestlers. (Reine, by the way, also directed “The Marine 2”, which according to Reine, was originally supposed to star Orton.)
The film opens with EMT hero Nick Malloy (Orton) doing what heroes do: jumping into action when a car accident happens right in front of him. Flash-forward to one-year later, and Nick’s ambulance gets blown up by Heller and his partner is almost killed. Heller demands that Nick play his game or else. Randy Orton is actually quite good in the role, though the film never really bothers to explain why an EMT is covered in tattoos and has the physique of, well, a WWE wrestler. It’s a good thing Nick’s got brute strength on his side, because completing Heller’s tasks (he’s got 12 of them, see title) means beating up lots of people, including some cops that try to get in his way. (Nick is warned not to go to the cops.) There are moments when Nick is supposed to like an Everyman out of his element, but then you remember it’s Randy Orton and that whole Everyman conceit sort of goes away fast.
I haven’t seen the first movie, but I can only assume that it follows the same thematic structure as “Reloaded”, with an unwitting hero being drawn into a deadly game consisting of 12 rounds with something (or someone) precious at stake. It’s up to Nick to figure out what his nemesis wants, though you might have a clue if you pay attention to the film’s first 10 minutes, which reveals Heller’s identity early on. The script by David Benullo sprinkles plenty of surprises along the way, with Heller’s master plan going mostly according to plan right up to the very end. Amusingly, even Heller seems to have trouble coming up with a whopping 12 things for Nick to do during the length of the film, and by the end he’s basically just killing people and calling it a round in his favor. They should have called this movie “6 Rounds”. Or “12 Rounds: Minus 6”. Coming up with 12 tasks for the hero in a 90-minute movie is hard!
While Nick is tearing around town trying to survive Heller’s rounds, ace detective McKenzie (Venus Terzo) has her hands full working the case. Things aren’t stacking up, and fortunately for Nick, McKenzie isn’t the by-the-books kind of gal. Tom Stevens plays the young man who gets caught up in the madness, while Cindy Busby is Nick’s endangered wife. In his first starring gig, Orton is surprisingly very capable in the role, and he is, naturally, very at home with the physical stunts. I’m still not entirely sure if his EMT is just supposed to be an average Joe or what, because Orton doesn’t look like an average Joe, and he certainly doesn’t fight like one. I’m not sure why the film didn’t give him some kind of Army or law-enforcement background to explain his skills. Or at least, those tattoo sleeves. I would be kind of suspicious if an EMT with that many tattoos showed up at my house.
I’ve always found the WWE-produced films to be very watchable, and I actually enjoyed their “The Marine” franchise quite a bit. (You can read my review of all three titles here. Yes, ALL THREE titles.) It makes sense for the WWE to put their contract stars in their movies, and for the most part they make for decent leading men. We’re not talking about “Citizen Kane” here, after all. The guys just have to be natural in front of the camera and know how to fake kicking ass, something that all the WWE guys have been doing their entire career. I could easily see a third “12 Rounds” movie coming soon. But like I said, maybe go just 6 rounds this time.
“12 Rounds: Reloaded” comes with a trio of featurettes, including: “Randy Orton Reloaded” (8 minutes) is all about star Randy Orton, “The Action of 12 Rounds: Reloaded” (8 minutes) focuses on the stunts and action in the film, and “Locations: From Heller’s Lair to the Sugar Factory” (7 minutes) explores the film’s locations. And finally, you get a full-length audio commentary with director Roel Reine and film editor Radu Ion, whose name sounds like a Bond villain. Both guys are pretty active so you do get your money’s worth. Picture and audio are clear on Blu-ray, and “12 Rounds: Reloaded” looks very good for a moderately-budgeted direct-to-DVD action movie.
Roel Reine (director) / David Benullo (screenplay)
CAST: Randy Orton … Nick Malloy
Cindy Busby … Sarah
Brian Markinson … Heller
Sean Rogerson … Detective Sykes
Venus Terzo … Detective McKenzie