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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

12 Rounds

Wrestler John Cena jumps off the ropes to take a shot at action hero stardom as a New Orleans cop in12 Rounds, a Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment release directed by the depreciated action maven, Renny Harlin. Aidan Gillen portrays an Irish terrorist who kidnaps the hero’s wife and makes him do all sorts of crazy things to get her back, often forcing him to rush at blazing speed from one end of town to the other. There is a method behind the villain’s madness, however, and it is this plot turn that changes the 2009 production from being just a mindless display of high-energy activity to being an enjoyable mindless display of high-energy activity. As for Cena, he’s a little too smooth and sculpted to make a believable cop (that was one thing Bruce Willis always had going for him-he was tough, but paunchy), but he still tackles his role gamely and performs his stunts without losing his character. Advantageously, the film has a minimum of special effects work to back up its crashes and falls, so it sustains the feel of the small, brisk thriller it wants to be. There are a few plot points that don’t quite hold up to close inspection, and until the twist, the villain’s manipulations seem absurd to the point where a viewer might not be interested in sticking with it, but on the whole the film is busy enough to hold one’s attention and clever enough to make that attention worthwhile.

Two versions of the film are presented, the theatrical version, which runs 108 minutes, and a director’s cut, which runs 109 minutes. Since the film was designed for general audiences, the additional moments mostly involve character development, and just a little bit of extra blood. The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The color transfer is okay.
The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound is not overly pumped, but supports the action effectively. There are alternate French and Spanish tracks in standard stereo, optional English and Spanish subtitles, a 5-minute ‘gag’ reel consisting mostly of behind-the-scenes hijinks, a good 10-minute segment on the film’s numerous stunt sequences and two minutes of slightly altered endings.

The film and the alternate endings have two commentary tracks, one from Harlin, and one from Cena and screenwriter Daniel Kunka. Harlin’s talk is very good, constantly describing aspects of the production process and how he achieved his goals in each sequence. He has, seemingly, no appreciation of cinema in his art. He mentions that the film has more than 3000 edits, which means that the camera never lingers on anything long enough to establish an appreciation. The greatest action directors could thrill you but still convey an aesthetic sensibility blended with the action. At 3000 edits, however, you never get beneath the surface, and it is that superficiality that has prevented Harlin from landing bigger gigs, despite his technical proficiency. Kunka and Cena supplement his talk with more anecdotes and a more relaxed assessment of the narrative. Cena also enjoys debunking some popular high-tech film clichés. “When you write a movie about a guy on a cell phone, everybody’s like, ‘Well, can’t you just track him on the cell phone?’ It’s funny. We met with the FBI and we’re like, ‘Hey, can you track cell phones?’ And they’re like, ‘Nah, not really. Sometimes. If we’ve got the number. If we don’t, we really can’t.'”

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon