Final Score Review
Van Damme's Sudden Death, UK-style
Sky Cinema Original Films picks up a nice little Die Hard-in-a-stadium variant with Final Score, starring Dave Bautista.Back in the nineties, the Die Hard-on-a- / Die Hard-in-a- formula was implemented numerous times with largely good results, whether on a warship in Under Siege, a train in Under Siege 2, a plane in Passenger 57, a bus in Speed, on Alcatraz for The Rock, and even on a mountain in Cliffhanger. Indeed, by the time 1994's Sudden Death came about, nobody even raised an eyebrow about the notion of Jean-Claude Van Damme busting terrorist heads in a hockey stadium during a match, a premise which turned out to be surprisingly good b-movie fun in the execution.
Although the formula has not been used as often in recent times, a few throwback movies have made it to the Big Screen to remind audiences of how effective it can be; particularly Gerard Butler's strong Die Hard-in-the-White-House flick Olympus Has Fallen. The smaller screen, or at least the DTV market, has seen lesser but still modestly enjoyable efforts like Antonio Banderas' Die Hard-in-a-shopping mall actioner, Security, which probably affords a good spring board in terms of the right standard that should be adopted for evaluating this latest offering.
A decent night-in watch, considering it's technically a simultaneous cinema release.
Whilst it's pitched as a cinema movie, released day-and-date on Sky Cinema Original Films, the reality is that the pleasantly enjoyable Final Score is still a glorified DTV actioner, albeit a frequently engaging one.
The story has a bunch of East European terrorists led by Ray Stevenson taking over an English football stadium, blocking mobile phone reception and rigging the place with explosives, positing a political agenda involving a supposedly long-dead war criminal. Complications ensue when Dave Bautista's visiting US war veteran gets mixed up in the plot, doing whatever he has to in order to ensure the safety of his young niece, who is in the stadium too.
Final Score is hardly new territory, perhaps apart from in the literal sense - by using West Ham's former home stadium setting - trading happily in all of the conventional Die Hard formula tropes it can muster, from the hapless accomplice to the girl in danger, to the last resort explosives and even the disbelieving police. Improvised fights in kitchens, henchmen with a vendetta (the brothers in Die Hard), complications involving agencies working above the police, and crazy antics in high locations - Final Score wraps it all up in one big, fairly action-packed package.
Finally affords Bautista the chance to be a more traditional action lead in a halfway decent movie.
Whilst it's not original, the familiarity is curiously refreshing, playing out in a surprisingly respectful fashion that honours the films that came before it, rather than merely retreading them. The simple but effective premise is explored well enough affording a montage-driven opening scene-setter and a hint of welcome character background before we dive right into the mayhem.
The action is effective, capturing the brutality of some of the fight scenes - which are all satisfyingly violent - and the scale of the bigger stunts and setpieces notwithstanding the restrictive confines of the film's budget and setting (ok, so one explosion looks a little cheap, but it's never objectionably silly CG territory). Indeed, considering this is the same Sky Cinema Original Films brand which gave us the thoroughly derivative Hurricane Heist, and the modesty intriguing Anon, Final Score is something of a decent result.
The casting is better than you'd expect from this kind of production, but not quite theatrical territory, with support from Ray Stevenson affording the piece a decent enough villain (with a not so effective accent), and a thankless late-stage cameo from Pierce Brosnan who also has an equally odd accent (as well as a couple of familiar Brit faces in Ralph Brown and Lucy Gaskell) leaving the meat of the work to be carried by the real star of the show - Dave Bautista.
Bautista has made a solid attempt at carving out a film career post-wrestling, somewhat following The Rock's footsteps but perhaps unusually picking a few alternative roles which have helped expand his career and give him some manner of depth and range. The Guardians of the Galaxy movies have shown his truly excellent and possibly totally unforeseen abilities in a comedy role, whilst Blade Runner 2049 afforded him some sombre, honest reflection in his brief cameo. Of course he's still churning out action films of variable quality, including a villainous turn in the Kickboxer remake, a part in another terrible Bruce Willis DTV flick, Marauders, and even a disappointing sidelining for the surprisingly awful Escape Plan 2, but films like Bushwick perhaps raised the bar in terms of expectations from this kind of work, giving him not only a better lead role but also a better quality of action thriller that generally defied genre expectations.
A satisfying night-in watch, considering it's technically a simultaneous cinema release.
In that respect, Final Score can't really be regarded as a step up, but in comparison to much of the rest of his DTV work, it certainly is (particularly in comparison to his last outing with Final Score's Brit director Scott Mann, the big waste of talent that is Heist), offering a watchable 100 minute feature that keeps you entertained throughout, has enough of a different flavour to distinguish it from its niche sub-genre of Die Hard-on-a- clones, and perhaps finally affords the pushing 50 ex-wrestler the chance to be a more traditional action lead in a halfway decent movie. You can't really ask for much more than that. It's a satisfying night-in watch, considering it's technically a simultaneous cinema release, and fans of Bautista and Die Hard riffs should check it out.
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