Movie Review: “Final Score”

Movies featuring terrorist plots, necessarily, require a place for said plot to unfold.  As in real life, the bigger and more scary the potential disaster, the more panic that can be created amongst the crowds within the film, the higher the stakes.  It is perhaps for these reasons that audiences have been treated to attacks within a stadium and its high population density more than once.  The new Dave Bautista film, “Final Score,” for better or worse, carries on the tradition.

Taking place in England and directed by Scott Mann, “Final Score” finds Bautista playing Michael Knox an ex-army man whose best friend died under his command years earlier.  Ever since, Bautista has watched out for his friend’s widow, Rachel (Lucy Gaskell); and daughter, Danni (Lara Peake).  Dropping in for a surprise visit, Knox takes Danni to a big football (soccer) match, putting him in the wrong place at the wrong time as terrorists have set their sites on the venue.

The most obvious comparison here is to “Die Hard,” particularly with both films’ use of C4 and discussions of detonators being required for the explosive to function. It is also possible to see connections to “The Sum of all Fears” or “The Dark Knight Rises” or “Black Sunday” or “Two Minute Warning.”

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a movie that has similarities to another movie, or even more than one other movie.  The question is what the new film offers above and beyond those comparisons.  With “Final Score,” the answer is “very little.”

“Final Score” is in fact most memorable for its utter brutality during a kitchen fight sequence.  It all happens very quickly, but it is a brutal, impressive (if you go for that sort of thing), moment.  What should be an even more impressive motorcycle chase through the stadium concourse later in the film falls flat.  This is largely because it is during sequences in the concourse when the stadium feels empty.  We do get shots of the crowds in their seats, but I’ve never attended any stadium where the concourse is so empty, and full of discarded garbage, during a game.

Beyond that, the meager bits of motivation on the side of the completely generic bad guys feels silly. This is a group of baddies, led by Arkady (Ray Stevenson), from the Russian controlled nation of Sokovia who have dreams of revenge.

If that nation sounds familiar to you it’s because Sokovia is the fictional country in which the climactic battle of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is fought.  The events currently taking place in the MCU are largely a result of the Sokovia Accords, which are a direct result of the “Age of Ultron” battle.

Bautista, although he does star in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise within the MCU, does not appear in “Ultron.”  Why then Sokovia?  Presumably just to be a little bit of a wink-wink to MCU fans and followers of Bautista (or perhaps Stevenson who appears in the “Thor” movies).  Certainly this James Bond fan enjoys the fact that former Bond Pierce Brosnan is in this film as Arkady’s target and Bautista appears in the most recent Bond (a Daniel Craig starrer).  Even so, calling the nation Sokovia pulls the audience out of the film more than it enhances the goings on.

As for the story between Danni and Knox, it never goes beyond the completely standard.  Danni is a teenager upset with her overbearing mother and angry at everyone, but over the course of the film she comes to understand the world a little bit better.  Sure, that’s a worthwhile sort of growth, but it isn’t handled in any manner that makes it stand out in this film.

In fact, the only character who truly rises above the rest in “Final Score” is Amit Shah’s Faisal, an employee of the stadium who is harassed for his religion and appearance.  Faisal grows beyond a caricature into someone the audience can truly root for and has a significant part to play in the goings on.

However, in the end, there isn’t enough good in “Final Score” to overcome the mundane and the misfires.  Bautista’s charisma helps thing along as does Shah and a couple of the fight scenes, but that isn’t enough.  It doesn’t matter that we have all seen movies like this before, what matters is that many of those movies are done better.

 

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photo credit: Saban Films

 

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