Two days ago 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown was finally available to watch in ten different theatres all over the USA and on demand on iTunes and Amazon. I got the chance to watch it yesterday, made some notes alongside and my mind up over night. Here is what I have to say about the movie. And I happily invite you to share your thoughts with me.
Let me write a personal note before I start my review. Just hours after “12 Rounds 3: Lockdown” was available, this review was published by Martin Tsai in the Los Angeles Times. It’s not really a review but it has got a negative headline and everyone seems to refer to this piece of bad journalism right now. To some people it seems to prove that no-one is able to reach the acting abilities of John Cena and that “12 Rounds 3: Lockdown” is an instant flop. Martin Tsai said that “12 Rounds 3: Lockdown” lacked the “firepower” of John Cena and I really don’t know what he’s talking about. So, if you want to read a detailed and much deeper review, just continue reading. Also make up your own mind. If you enjoyed the movie, don’t make anyone change your opinion. And if you don’t enjoy the movie, don’t make “because John Cena isn’t part of it” your sole reason.
Get to know protagonist and antagonist
Since this movie has got the classic scenario Good Cop -vs- Bad Cop, it might be useful to say a few words about the characters of the protagonist and the antagonist of 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown.
First appearing in the movie we have antagonist and bad cop Tyler Burke (Roger Cross) who is the leader of a group of police officers that think that wearing a police badge make them rule in town. They don’t serve the police badge; they make the police badge serve for them. So they can make and bend the rules to their own advantage to achieve big cars and big money.
Tyler Burke himself is your so-called alpha man. He rules over his group of crooked cops in quite some arrogant fashion. He’s very extrovert, very proud about himself and he doesn’t care about killing people that stand in his way.
Good cop John Shaw (Dean Ambrose) on the other side just returns to duty from his seven months break for psychiatric treatment following his rookie cop partner Ray Jones’ death. Everyone still seems to blame Shaw for the death of the young police officer, even though he was cleared completely.
Both Shaw and Burke once came through the police academy together and actually were close friends. But things changed over the years because Shaw wanted to serve the badge and the people. He is the kind of police officer who acts after the law and doesn’t make up any rules by himself. He’s a rather quiet cop who just wants to do his job as best as he can. He’s introvert and no-one really takes notice of him or takes him seriously. He’s very smart though but didn’t really get the chance to show his talent because he doesn’t force himself to the front row to get noticed – quite the opposite to Burke.
We get straight to the point about who’s the bad guy
The movie starts with Tyler Burke arriving together with two of his cop colleagues Gideon (Daniel Cudmore) and Harris (Ty Olsson) at the house of drug dealer George Freemont (Matthew Harrison). Burke surprises Freemont and comes soon enough to the point about why he’s there. So Burke, the police officer, together with his cop entourage and Freemont, the drug dealer, had an agreement about their business. But Freemont didn’t want to trust Burke, so he got some evidence of incriminating pictures behind his back. But Burke got to know about them, so he went to Freemont’s house for two reasons: getting the evidence, so his drug business won’t discovered, and getting rid of Freemont, so he can take the laurels for getting him.
Freemont first tried to play innocent but as soon as he was shot into his left knee, he remembered about the files and told Burke where he would find them. Harris got Burke the laptop and after surveying the photographs, they shoot the laptop. This probably was only done for effect because the hard drive would have certainly survived. At least the cops were clever enough to take the laptop with them. Burke asked for backups of the files but again Freemont said there weren’t any. Regardless Harris and Gideon were sent to search the house. Now Burke arranged the scene of the crime to make it look like he had been attacked by Freemont. Then he kills him. It’s actually refreshing to have a bad guy coming straight to the point, not talking his opponent to death but actually shooting him the second he got what he wanted. But there are still some questions that need debate in my opinion:
- Why turns Freemont the TV off in the middle of a football match?
- Why don’t the bad cops turn the car lights off?
- Why and how is the laptop in the safe in standby mode?
- It looks like nothing else is saved on the laptop because these photos are planted straight to the desktop.
- The guys are searching the whole house for backups but not the dead body of Freemont?
The next scene introduces the good cop and protagonist of the movie, John Shaw (Dean Ambrose). It’s the morning after the George Freemont shooting and Shaw is on his way to his first day at work after seven months out of duty. The radio news in his car informing Shaw about the heroic act by Burke last night. And then he has to deal with some young snob (Andrew Herr, with Avery Konrad) in a car right next to him. The boy flashes Shaw the middle finger, and Shaw flashes his police badge at him. If this was a realistic scene in the US, the young pal probably would have been arrested. But Shaw apparently doesn’t want trouble at his first working day back, so he just drove away. It was actually a cool scene to introduce Shaw as a police officer without the need to say so.
A little while later Shaw arrives at the police department and on his way to his office cell he meets Captain Ellen Matthews (Rebecca Marshall) who seems to be the only one person glad to see him back. Because Shaw feels like everyone else still blames him for the death of his partner, the rookie police officer Ray Jones. I liked the cut to the next scene when Matthews left in the elevator and we look at Shaw from her perspective, the elevator door closing right where Shaw is standing. It’s a rather telling and symbolic scene. Because of what happens later, you can take this as “this very last door also closes for Shaw”, i.e. Matthews was the only person left he could trust but later on he will discover that also Matthews isn’t on his side.
Of course there was some hidden backup
When Shaw finally arrived at his office cell, he got to meet the young straight from the academy Officer Jenny Taylor (Sarah Smyth) who obviously doesn’t know Shaw so far so she’s friendly to him. But Harris makes sure that she’s got to know that everyone blames Shaw about the death of the police officer. Shaw gives him the deadly look but doesn’t say much to his defence. This just adds to his character, revealing that Shaw isn’t a very outspoken and confident guy. He just wants to do his job and be left alone. And to draw a really clean cut to the antagonist character, Burke arrives in the room and everyone applauds him and his success from last night. And in his back we got another hint on future events through a sign with the following quote by George Washington:
For the next scene we saw Shaw at the shooting training. We saw him still struggling hitting his targets properly when Burke joins him for a training next to each other. They have a conversation about their specific choice of guns. And word also comes to the dead police officer again, going a bit deeper into the circumstances of his death and also Shaw makes some hints about being suspicious about the shooting of George Freemont. It’s obvious that Shaw doesn’t trust Burke and he’s got the idea that something must be wrong with him. Before Burke leaves, he demonstrates Shaw that he better doesn’t get into his way because he never misses his target. And all of a sudden Shaw’s shooting accuracy is right back.
We then witness the starting of the George Freemont autopsy when a flash drive looking like a credit card is found in his pants. The autopsy assistant put the flash drive in a bag and Taylor later on collects it to get it to the evidence cop. Meanwhile Shaw is back at his office cell where his conversation with Burke still circles through his mind. Momentarily out of coffee he asked around if he should get someone else some coffee as well but everyone ignores him. I kind of like this little scene because it makes me feel for Shaw who really seems to be a kind guy who tries his best to connect with his colleagues but they don’t give him anything but their cold shoulders back. On his way to get himself a coffee, Shaw meets Taylor who shoves him the flash drive. And that just put another thought of distrust for Burke into Shaw’s mind.
Back at his office cell, he reads Burke’s incident report regarding the death of George Freemont. Distrust is only growing, so Shaw now wants to see what’s on this flash drive. Hard cut is done to Burke having some fun at home when he is informed via mobile phone about the new evidence. This initiates a couple of cuts between these two events that happen at the same time: Shaw gets the flash drive and watches the photos, some files and finally an audio with proof of that deal Burke was speaking about at the start of the movie, so Shaw finally knows what’s wrong with Burke; and Burke driving back to work – sirens on full blast – to get this new evidence (he doesn’t know so far that it’s a flash drive) before anyone else.
Shaw wants to inform Captain Matthews about it and unfortunately went into the same elevator with Burke, Harris and Gideon. Meanwhile Meeks (Toby Levins) was sent to get the evidence. In the elevator Shaw drops the credit card on the floor but Harris gets it up and hands it back over to Shaw. In the meantime Meeks got to know that Shaw has got the evidence and that it looks like a credit card. He passes this information over to Burke via mobile phone right at the moment when Shaw has left the elevator in floor 2 and the door closed again.
This whole sequence was really well done, the fast cuts between both events first and then the hunt with only one party knowing everything. And the very end of it where Burke and his guys are so close but they only get to know when Shaw and the evidence have left. So now, the hunt for both of them started here.
And the hunt for Shaw begins
Burke turns the fire alarm on, so the building is evacuated. Meeks and Gideon are placed on the exit to make sure that Shaw doesn’t leave. This action is kind of plausible: isolate the opponent and make sure no-one else is there to witness, so as the expected victors of this outcome, Burke can make up his own story and sell it as truth – when you ignore that all the pictures from the security cameras are most likely recorded, you can go with this storyline and believe that Burke’s words are more trusted than the pictures from the cameras.
At least, with the fire alarm blasting, Shaw knew at this point that Burke knows about him having the evidence. And he knew for sure when he got the first shots fired at him by Gideon. He’s able to flee him for once and in a quiet second he checks on his gun to tell himself and the audience that he’s got 12 rounds available now. This movie gimmick unfortunately was repeated almost every time Shaw got another shot and opponent killed, something that was rather unnecessary. Then he tries to contact Captain Matthews again who’s on her drive back home. But again Shaw isn’t able to inform her about the dirty cops because Gideon is right back on his heels. Meanwhile Darrow (Lochlyn Munro) takes over the seat from the security guard in front of the security camera screens to find Shaw at any given time. When everyone except Shaw and the dirty cops had left the building, it was set in a lockdown – means doors were closed and saved, power was cut off, cellular signals blocked and phone lines disabled, so Shaw was limited in his opportunities to find a way out or contact anyone outside the building. Now dark and empty hallways were shown, accompanied by slightly too heroic music.
Introducing himself as Officer Smith, Darrow called the fire department, so they didn’t send someone – just like it happened in Die Hard. And then out of nowhere young Officer Taylor appeared, wondering why all doors were locked. Somehow lessons about fire alarms and building lockdowns weren’t part of her schooling at the police academy.
Shaw meanwhile has his first encounter with the enemy when he surprised Meeks. But right in time Burke joins the party, trying to talk Shaw into handing him over the flash drive. But Shaw wasn’t up for that, Burke tells him that he doesn’t miss and then shoots Meeks. You can make fun of that, you know, bad guy can’t kill the good guy but kills several of his own guys. But if you think about it this could all be part of his plan of taking Shaw down. So Burke shoots Meeks intentionally, so he can blame Shaw later for his killing. You can still argue, why don’t shoot Shaw, so this whole mess is over in a second? Well, Burke says Shaw always wants it the hard way, so he gets the hard way. It’s an action movie, you know? There has to be a lot of shooting and killing. Who said there needed to be logic?
Also Shaw doesn’t hit his counterpart Burke with his first round of twelve but shoots an extinguisher, so Burke is momentarily disoriented and Shaw tries to save Meeks’ life in the elevator. But he dies and from there on Burke tells everyone that Shaw killed the cop and basically runs riot, so everything about the lockdown is justified. Now since Darrow has locked down the elevator, Shaw has to flee through the top of the cabin. And he was back on a corridor when Burke and Harris found Meeks in the otherwise empty elevator. But Burke and Harris split up after this failure and literally seconds after Harris found Shaw in the gym. That was pretty easy for him, wasn’t it? At least the rest of this encounter wasn’t as easy. Because both men ended up in a good old fist fight with Harris’ head meeting a heavy weight from the gym, so he was knocked down = Knockdown. I really couldn’t miss out on that pun!
Finally we saw Officer Taylor again and initially she was glad to meet up with Shaw. But this whole scene makes no sense whatsoever. Because Taylor asked Shaw about the blood on his body and Shaw tells her about Meeks, that he’s dead but it wasn’t him. And then he doesn’t have time to explain. And of course Taylor grows suspicious. Why not telling her that Burke is a dirty cop, and the evidence for it is on the flash drive? Taylor knows about the flash drive and she was friendly towards Shaw before. So why didn’t Shaw trust her and told her in a few words what’s up with the lockdown? So because Shaw acts suspicious, of course Taylor grows suspicious about him. But before she can put a gun on him or something, Shaw is faster and finally tells her to hide in a dark corner. He still had the chance to tell her to stay away from Burke and be cautious about him but instead he told her that he would try to reach his car to get out of the building. So Shaw basically let Taylor run into Burke’s arms, so Burke could use her to get Shaw.
Meanwhile outside the building Captain Matthews arrived, she contacted Burke via walkie talkie and he tells her that Shaw went crazy, already killed a cop and they currently tried to get him. Shaw now already arrived at the parking lot. Cameras were there as well, so heavy shooting took place with another dead cop, this time indeed killed by Shaw. He managed to get into a car and drove around like crazy but couldn’t make it outside. Instead he got shot into his left upper arm.
When we saw Taylor again, she kind of found Burke and as naive as she is she told Burke everything about her encounter with Shaw. Darrow again couldn’t find Shaw on the screens, so Burke takes Taylor hostage and makes Shaw step in front of a camera. So Shaw did what he was told to do to save Taylor’s life but Burke kills her anyway. Because the speaker is still on, Shaw can hear the gun shot, knows that Taylor is dead, so he runs out of the camera view again. And for some strange reason Burke seems to be baffled about it. Another scene that wasn’t completely thought through.
Now Burke doesn’t underestimate Shaw anymore
After heavily arming themselves up, the search for Shaw starts all over again. And like the slightly too long sequence suggests, they search everywhere – except for Shaw’s actual office cell where he is to finally get his left arm taped up. He should have lost a lot of blood at this point, shouldn’t he? Darrow meanwhile was able to see Shaw trying to hide behind his desk and send the bad guys there. Only then Shaw destroyed the camera and some people might asking themselves if he couldn’t have destroyed it a bit earlier, so Darrow wouldn’t have had the chance to see him. But this time it makes sense. Because every not working camera would be suspicious and Darrow would have sent his guys there way before Shaw was finished with the taping.
But the bad cops were still earlier there than Shaw had probably thought. So a lengthy shooting took place in which an enormous amount of ammunition was wasted. Another bad guy was shot by Shaw, and after a little chat between Burke and Shaw the latter used the state and the machine gun of the dead guy to surprise the rest of the gang. And finally Shaw was able to flee again – but not the way he put Burke’s nose at.
The following arrival of Chief Officer Keppler (Bill Dow) probably only took place to get him and the audience a bit of John Shaw’s back story. Apparently the chief officer doesn’t know his people and this most certainly very popular case of Shaw and the shooting of his partner. Now Keppler got Burke on the walkie talkie to make him explain the situation. He did and blamed Shaw for the shooting of all dead cops at this point. But Keppler isn’t just waiting and watch outside like Matthews apparently did, he ordered a swat team. And if Burke isn’t able to end this, he will send the swat team in.
Another strange scene followed after that. Harris and Gideon wandering through a corridor, seemingly quite relaxed when they should be under a lot of stress. And they talked about the relationship of Shaw and Burke. Given the fact that there wasn’t any deep story behind it, there was no real logic behind this scene. Because at this point we already got enough information about their back story. Plus Harris told us they were bad guys because of the better houses and cars and that Shaw isn’t one of these guys. And still he drives a big yellow Chevrolet Camara.
Shaw’s next plan was to go to the server room, turn off the power in the security room, so Darrow loses all his monitors, get back access to the network and send the evidence files to the e-mail address of the police department. Everything worked perfectly up on the upload was cancelled at 96 per cent because Darrow managed to shut down the network again.
Of course Shaw was long gone when Burke, Harris and Carmen (Sharon Taylor) arrived at the server room. But Darrow noticed that the door to the roof was opened and Shaw would be able to make a call from up there, so the bad guys had to run up there as well as soon as possible. But before Harris opened machine gun fire on Shaw, he finally got his phone call to Matthews and told her about the real circumstances around Burke and George Freemont. You would think that Matthews instantly tells Keppler about it. Because true or not, if she believes Shaw or not, she has to tell anything new to the guy in charge. But she didn’t, so chances were that Matthews belonged to the bad guys as well.
What followed on the roof top was another fist fight between Shaw and Gideon and this time Gideon experiences a rather bloodless looking death after Shaw removed the safety pin from one of Gideon’s weapons. And a rather interesting idea with an electrically charged door handle cost another bad guy’s life.
And now for the slowly built up showdown
Next in line and obviously the main target, Shaw finally got Burke arrested and handcuffed, so he could use Burke as his ticket to freedom. But standing in the elevator on their way down, Burke tells Shaw that he should never turn his eyes off a guy’s back because he’d never know what he’s doing there. And Shaw just looks at his former partner until Burke had freed himself from the handcuffs. Another fist fight broke loose and somehow Shaw was able to leave the elevator, almost shooting Burke but the door closes before he can. Instead Shaw himself is under fire once again but the guy who thinks is really funny, is soon shot straight in the forehead. And there is Burke again who’s after Shaw. Plus Carmen and Harris are coming from the other side.
Now Shaw get himself a shield for cover and it somehow works until he’s hit again, this time in his right hip. But he is able to block his way behind again to head over to the next room to get his fresh wound taped up. In the meantime Chief Keppler finally has enough and grants Burke another five minutes until he’ll send the swat team in. We then see Shaw how finally his wounds almost break him. But all in all Dean Ambrose doesn’t sell his several wounds and the effect of the beatings very realistically. Actually knowing his acting skills during wrestling matches, he could have done a lot better. So I guess director Stephen Reynolds wanted him to non-sell his wounds most of the time.
After he taped up his hip shot, Shaw has got just another fist fight, this time with Carmen. But the fight was cut short when Burke had the opportunity to shoot and of course he kills Carmen instead of Shaw. Maybe he should have targeted the head like Shaw always did? But when Burke said that he doesn’t miss, he actually was right – in some way.
When the shooting momentarily stopped, Shaw for some unidentified reason wasted two of his remaining rounds for high shots just to get the attention back from Burke and Harris. Now these two guys tried some gas bomb that didn’t have any effect on Shaw. After a short one-on-one fight with Harris, Shaw is even able to kill him with his own knife.
In the heat of the moment, Burke brought up a cunning plan to finally get Shaw. So elevators were made working again and Darrow was sent to distract Shaw. So Burke was somehow able to disarm him from behind. What followed was a scene that every good bad cop has at the end of a movie: while Burke was straight forward at the beginning he talked and joked with Shaw until the power went out for the swat team and Shaw was able to flee once again. But at least Shaw had to hand him over the flash drive first, so Burke could destroy it. There was no proof left anymore, so Shaw had to come up with something cunning for getting Burke sentenced and himself cleared.
With Darrow shot, Shaw had now one round left and he reminds us all in case we forgot from one minute ago. Soon after he had to overcome the swat fire and when he did, Matthews called him for whatever reason. Because it was actually Shaw who got her some information. They agreed to meet up at the rear of the building and soon after they did. But now we saw why Matthews didn’t inform Keppler – she’s part of the dirty group of cops. And she called Burke after she made Shaw drop down his gun. Now Burke killed Matthews for whatever reason – most likely because for drama protagonist vs antagonist is the perfect setting. A third person was too much here, so away with her.
And once again Burke took a little too long to finish Shaw off. He also talked a little too much. He said that this was his show and it took a long time to built what he built. Not him, Shaw, would stand in his way, not George Freemont. And right when Burke was about to shoot Shaw, the swat team saved the good cop with storming the rear hall. Burke of course told them his own fairy tale, that Shaw would have killed Matthews to add to the others. Keppler now wanted Shaw to be arrested but the good guy indeed came up with some new evidence. He had recorded Burke’s latest words to him on his mobile phone and played it for everyone to listen. Burke couldn’t have it and tried to shoot Shaw but the latter was faster and shoot him in the left knee – for the circle to get closed. And finally Shaw was able to leave the building into freedom.
This movie unfortunately screams Die Hard in far too many scenes and motives. The plot itself where a good cop is locked in a building with an army of bad guys; one bad guy calling off the fire alarm, so the fire department stays away from the building; the good cop only has got communication with one person outside of the building; an outside unit plays a major part in saving the good cop’s life. And that’s just the basic points.
But there are also different plot twists. The bad guy isn’t just one random criminal whose identity is known very early in the movie but a crooked cop who is able to fool his colleagues outside the building until the very end. Even better, the police officers outside the building think throughout the entire movie – until the very end – that John Shaw is the bad guy. John McClane in Die Hard also had his issues to make the outside world believe him that he’s not one of the bad guys. But John Shaw really has it harder.
And he uses his intelligence and wits more subtle than John McClane. There are actually a few great scenes and turns of events in the movie. But the high standard this movie offers at times unfortunately isn’t held up high. I’m not able to compare 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown with the two previous movies of this trilogy with John Cena and Randy Orton respectively. Because I haven’t watched these two. I also don’t really want to compare them because from the little I do know about these two movies, the third installment really has more in common with Die Hard than it has with the 12 Rounds series. People certainly will argue about that. But before you say that John Cena is a far better actor than Dean Ambrose, you should remember that this was Dean Ambrose’s first movie while for John Cena 12 Rounds was his third one. And if John Cena is able to get better in acting than Dean Ambrose is certainly able to do so as well.
Can’t wait for his next movie to see that improvement.
5 things I like about the movie
- If you are able to ignore the lack of logic, it’s a thrilling action movie;
- Usually the sound adds to the thrill;
- Roger Cross plays a great antagonist;
- Demonstration that you can take out a suspect with a knee shot – you don’t have to kill them;
- Dean Ambrose wore his wrestling boots for this movie.
5 things I don’t like about the movie
- 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown is too close to Die Hard. It’s not a persiflage, it’s not an hommage, it’s just blatantly stealing ideas – and that’s never good if you want to be original;
- John Shaw refers too often to the title of the movie; would have been enough to say he’s got 12 rounds and at the very end that he’s got one left;
- It wasn’t necessary to kill Captain Matthews; I still wonder why she had to die;
- Music was misused at times, especially when playing heroic music while just showing some dark and empty hallways;
- Dean Ambrose doesn’t sell his various injuries very realistically.
Burke: You know what this means? It means, I make my own rules. Now I want you to think about that when I ask you my next question… where are the files?
Freemont: Files? What do you talking about?
Burke: Ask yourself, how useful these files are gonna be if you’re dead.
Matthews: It’s good to having you back.
Shaw: Yeah? I guess that no-one else is feeling the same.
Shaw: There’s a right way and a wrong way. Let’s face it, you were never afraid of breaking a few rules.
Burke: Whatever it takes.
Saul: We need the evidence dropped off from the Freemont case.
Evidence Cop: It’s popular tonight?
Meeks: Say it again.
Evidence Cop: Detective Shaw just picked it up ten minutes ago.
Burke: You’re looking at that door, wondering if that’s your escape road.
Shaw: It’s one of two options I’m considering.
Burke: And the other option?
Shaw: Putting a bullet in your head!
Shaw: Eight rounds, six bad guys – love those odds.
Saul: That’s some advice for you, Shaw, try to hit in some place that isn’t covered by Kevlar.
Shaw: Like your head?
Burke: I was never the type to share the toys as a kid. I told you that you’d never walk outta here. This is my show. It has taken a long time to build what I’ve built. And neither you or George Freemont or anyone else is gonna stand in my way. Enjoy your retirement.
Burke: Kick ass on your first day back!
Shaw: Looks like I kicked ass on my first day back after all.