Final Score is the second time Dave Bautista has worked with Director Scott Mann, the first being the completely average heist film, cleverly titled Heist. This one is very obviously a knock off version of the incredible 1995 Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Sudden Death, but different. By different, I of course mean they changed it from JCVD taking out terrorists that have taken over a hockey arena, to Dave Bautista taking out terrorists that have taken over a SOCCER stadium. See? Soccer instead of Hockey. Different.
Alright, so it’s really not any different at all, but that’s ok! That doesn’t need to be a bad thing. I mean, it’s not like Sudden Death was an original movie in the first place. It was one of MANY movies that copied the Die Hard formula after its massive success. Steven Seagal started it with Die Hard on a boat (Under Siege). From that point on, it seemed like no action star felt complete unless they did their own version of Die Hard. Check out this list, and this is just the ones with big time names attached:
1992 - Passenger 57 (Die Hard in a plane) Wesley Snipes
1993 - Cliffhanger (Die Hard on a mountain) Sylvester Stallone
1995 - Sudden Death (Die Hard in a hockey arena) Jean-Claude Van Damme
1995 - The Rock (Die Hard in Alcatraz) Nic Cage
1996 - Executive Decision (Die Hard in a plane II) Kurt Russell
1996 - Air Force One (Die Hard in a plane III) Harrison Ford
1997 - Con Air (Die Hard in a plane IV) Nic Cage
2009 - Command Performance (Die Hard in a concert arena) Dolph Lundgren
2013 - Olympus Has Fallen (Die Hard in the White House) Gerard Butler
2017 - Security (Die Hard in a mall) Antonio Banderas
2018 - Skyscraper (Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno) Dwayne Johnson
SIDE NOTE-- While searching for Skyscraper (Dwayne Johnson version), I discovered a treasure. In 1996, Anna Nicole Smith (Yeah, THAT Anna Nicole Smith) was in a her own Die Hard rip-off, called Skyscraper. Apparently, in between fighting terrorists that have taken over a building, she finds time to take a shower and have a couple sex scenes because. . . I don’t know. . . it’s Anna Nicole Smith. She’s just playing to her strengths, I guess? I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know if it’s any good (I’m guessing it’s not) but, in the interest of gender equality, I’ll add it to the list.
1996 - Skyscraper (Die Hard. . . with boobs??) Anna Nicole Smith
I don’t want it to sound like I’m bashing these movie. There’s a reason they copied the Die Hard formula. It’s a GREAT formula. And a simple formula. One person, outnumbered, against terrorists that have taken over a single location. All the writer has to do is fill in the details and, viola, you’ve got yourself an action movie. And to their credit, all of these movies have been able to tweak the formula enough to differentiate themselves enough to feel fresh and exciting. Unfortunately, Final Score is only partially able to do that.
Final Score starts with a newsreel montage that sets up the political motivation for the terrorists in the movie. It boils down to this; two brothers, Dimitri and Arkady Belav, are leading a revolution in the Russian state of Sakovya. Dimitri (Pierce Brosnan) is the face of the revolution, leading it on the political side, and Arkady leads the military side of the revolution. Dimitri is killed, the revolution falls apart, and Arkady goes into hiding.
The movie flashes forward several years and we meet Michael Knox (Dave Bautista), an American former Navy SEAL who heads to the UK to take his friend’s daughter, Danni, to a soccer match. His friend served with him in the Navy and was killed under his command, so he feels like he owes Danni and he constantly travels to London to spend time with her. While at the soccer match, terrorists led by Arkady (Ray Stevenson) take over the stadium, locking down all the exits and jamming all cell phone reception. Arkady believes his brother is still alive and in the stadium, and he is threatening to blow up the stadium unless his brother comes forward before the end of the game.
See, the tricky part for Arkady is, his brother doesn’t really look like his brother anymore. Dimitri started having second thoughts about the revolution, so he faked his death and told the plastic surgeon to make him look like an old bearded version of James Bond. This allows us to get a bunch of random shots of Pierce Brosnan watching soccer. This also allows the studio to plaster Pierce Brosnan’s face and name on the cover to help sell more copies, despite Brosnan having very few lines and only being in the movie for about 10 minutes total.
I liked most of the characters in this movie. The best of the bunch is Dave Bautista. Michael Knox is not a deep character, and this DEFINITELY isn’t a drama that set out to showcase Bautista’s acting skills, but it’s still a role that required some acting talent. Knox is similar to Die Hard’s John McClane in that he is not an action hero. He does have skills from his time in the military, but he’s still a normal guy who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He can hold his own in a fight, but he is very much just a normal guy. Bautista is a BIG dude, so being able to pull off an everyman like he does here is a testament to his natural charisma and acting ability. This is yet another role for him that proves he is a capable and versatile actor. In Final Score, he feels just as natural in the slow, character driven scenes as he does in the action scenes, and he creates an extremely likable character that is easy to root for throughout the movie.
I also liked Amit Shah as Faisal, a security guard in the stadium who acts as the comedy relief of the movie. I feel like this character is a bit more useful than the typical whiny, funny sidekick. Faisal is terrified throughout the whole movie, and he does whine and complain about things, but when it comes down to it, he steps up and pulls his weight. He can’t hold his own in a fight, but I appreciate that he’s willing to step in and help in his own way. I have to confess, however, that I typically like annoying, comedic, sidekick characters that most people hate. I loved Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element. I loved Joe Pesci as Leo Getz in Lethal Weapon 3 and Lethal Weapon 4. Hell, I even loved Justin Long as Matt Farrell in Live Free or Die Hard. I liked Faisal in this one but consider yourself warned, I have a feeling most people might be annoyed by him.
Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone, Accident Man) plays the main villain, Arkady. I really like Stevenson. He is a tough looking guy with enough acting talent to play a wide variety of characters. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, Arkady is an underwhelming villain. Stevenson plays him perfectly. He is intimidating and scary, but he just doesn’t do very much. He makes threats, he barks orders, and he shoots a couple people (and those aren’t even during a shootout. He just executes some hostages to show that he’s serious). That’s it! He isn’t really involved in any of the action scenes. He is just a mastermind. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. The best action movie villain of all time (Hans Gruber from Die Hard) was a mastermind that never got his hands dirty. The difference is Hans Gruber was a fantastic character that was written well, developed well, and made even better by Alan Rickman’s performance. Arkady is none of those things. Stevenson does his best, but the role is so bland that there’s not much he can do to salvage it.
The rest of the characters are your standard action movie plot devices. The niece only exists to add an emotional element to drive Knox, Arkady’s henchmen (and henchwoman) are only there to add more obstacles to Knox’s path to Arkady and Danni, and the police don’t do anything to help Knox because they are either unwilling or unable due to their incompetence. Standard action movie stuff. And that’s ok. Those characters really aren’t important, so I am fine with them not wasting my time developing them.
The only character I had an issue with is Dimitri, and that’s only because he is played by Pierce Brosnan. Pierce Brosnan isn’t bad in the role, but he is completely wasted. He is given absolutely nothing to do. He is in the middle of some of the action scenes, but he just stands around while Knox does all the work. He gets some dialogue, but it’s mostly one-liners and expository stuff. I don’t have any problems with Brosnan’s performance, I just don’t understand why he was cast to play (or why he agreed to play) such an insignificant character. Actually, I lied, I do understand. He was cast in the role so the studio could use his name and face to sell DVDs, and he took the role because it’s easy money. I understand it, but I don’t like it. It just seems like a cheap, bait and switch tactic to cheat the audience.
The action is the best part of Final Score, and even that is hit and miss. There are a couple standout action scenes that are really enjoyable. I liked an early fight scene where Knox and one of Arkady’s henchmen get into a brutal close quarters fight on an elevator while Faisal is stuck in the middle. Considering the cramped location, director Scott Mann does a great showing the viewer every move clearly. The fight is chaotic, but I was never confused about the location of the characters or what was happening during the scuffle.
The best scene of the movie was a fight in the kitchen. Knox fights two henchmen at once, and the scene is incredibly planned out and choreographed. Knox and the henchmen use the environment to great effect, which leads to my favorite part of the movie. One of the henchmen comes at Knox with a knife. He knocks the knife out of the guy’s hand and it falls into hot frying oil. Later in the fight, Knox has his face shoved onto a hot countertop grill next to the fryer. He has no other options, so he reaches his hand into the boiling oil, grabs the knife, and stabs the guy holding his face on the grill. It is a wonderfully badass moment that is a testament to the thought that went into this set-piece.
That kitchen scene is great because it is choreographed in a way that makes it feel like a real brawl instead of a choreographed fight. These aren’t martial arts moves that look like a dance. This is Knox fighting for his survival with pots, pans, gas hoses, and anything else he can grab a hold of. He is beat down and bloodied and there is real tension to the scene, which is not an easy task considering how big and intimidating Dave Bautista is. What helped them accomplish that is the casting of Martyn Ford as a henchman. At 6’8”, the former bodybuilder and future MMA fighter towers over Bautista. He is perfect for this type of role and he is a truly scary adversary. This scene was one of my favorite action scenes of the year, I only wish the rest of the movie lived up to it.
Unfortunately, the action outside of those two scenes isn’t very good. The shootout scenes aren’t exciting in the least bit, and that isn’t helped by the fact that nobody seems to be able to hit anything. All we get to see is various cuts of different people firing guns. Unlike the fighting scenes, there are no consequences to the violence. There is never any sense of danger to the heroes which means there is zero tension to the scenes.
The worst scene of the movie, by far, is the fight scene between Knox and Tatiana (Alexandra Dinu), a sidekick of Arkady. I have nothing against females in action. In fact, when it’s done right, I LOVE a kickass female character. Just as with a male character in an action movie, I have to believe that this person can hold their own in a fight, either due to their physical prowess (Gina Carano, Ronda Rousey), their obvious fighting skill (Sofia Boutella, Julie Estelle), or their acting ability to play a tough character (Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez). I’m sure Alexandra Dinu is a fine actress, but I feel like she’s incredibly miscast in this movie. Dinu has a very thin, model-like body type so she isn’t physically intimidating (especially next to the giant Dave Bautista), she isn’t able to play the tough villain role convincingly, and (worst of all) she very clearly has no fighting experience. This forces the director to stage his shots to either hide her fighting deficiencies or hide the obvious stunt woman. The result is a silly, choppy looking, boring fight scene.
Overall, Final Score is a mostly uncreative, mildly entertaining, generic action movie. Bautista is fantastic as usual, and there are a few great action sequences, but the rest of the movie fails to pull its weight. Most of the movie (especially the bits without Bautista) are too generic to be exciting or to make this stand out from its peers. If you like Dave Bautista, or if you’re looking to watch a decently enjoyable action movie, give this one a shot. Otherwise, there are plenty of other, more original, action movies out there for you to enjoy.
RATING: 5 out of 10 (C)