Final Score (United Kingdom, 2018)September 14, 2018
Saban Films is to action what Blumhouse is to horror. They buy low-to-mid budget productions and put them out into the marketplace (usually with a small theatrical release to complement a wider VOD footprint) with an eye toward a profit. Most of these films aren’t very good but they understand their audience and rely heavily on tropes. Final Score is a perfect example. It doesn’t try to do anything especially interesting and focuses on the “comfort foods” of the genre: fights (often bloody and extremely violent), chases, explosions, gunfire, and excessive machismo. The film increases its profile through the casting of Dave Bautista (whose profile has exploded since Guardians of the Galaxy), Ray Stevenson, and ex-Bond Pierce Brosnan (in full “take-the-money-and-run” mode). A fully disengaged brain is probably the key to enjoying Final Score. Employing even basic logic engenders a recognition of how truly stupid this screenplay is, especially when it comes to the resolution.
An unapologetic Die Hard knock-off, Final Score may be most valuable in illustrating how rare a gem the 1988 thriller was. There’s nothing new about the concept of an everyday man inadvertently put in a position where he must stop a terrorist attack to save a loved one, but no film generated the level of tension of the John McTiernan production. As the hero whose only luck is of the bad kind, Bruce Willis’ John McClane mixed self-deprecating wit with a dogged tenacity that even the threat of physical dismemberment couldn’t defeat. Bautista’s take on the same sort of character is a somber, brooding sort who never cracks a joke and exhibits the kind of invulnerability that Schwarzenegger and Stallone embraced during the 1980s. Bautista’s character, ex-Special Ops soldier Michael Knox, takes a beating (including having his face brushed across a hot grill and dipping his hand into boiling oil) and keeps on ticking. Even Superman might be impressed.
The screenplay for Final Score, credited to the Lynch Brothers and Jonathan Frank, was apparently developed with a cliché checklist at the ready. Although there are examples of this early in the proceedings, they become excessive during the third act when the cavalcade of dumbness reaches critical mass. Normally in action films like this, the concept of “straining credulity” doesn’t apply but Final Score piles the excrement on so extensively during the final 15-20 minutes that it becomes comical. Whenever the hero ends up in a sticky situation, the filmmakers don’t try to figure out a clever way out – they just do something idiotic that often defies the laws of physics and human biology. (A person cannot survive a 60-foot fall then get up and run away with little more than a limp.)
Based on the one-line plot description, I was hoping for something along the lines of the 1977 John Frankenheimer thriller Black Sunday. (Wishful thinking, I know…) Final Score’s premise is that the leadership of a paramilitary separatist organization, led by the amoral Arkady (Stevenson), has set up shop inside an English soccer stadium, locking the place down and threatening to blow it up if their demands aren’t met. Arkady wants to know the location of his brother, Dimitri (Brosnan), who is among the 30,000 spectators but has undergone plastic surgery that renders him unrecognizable. Mike Knox (Bautista) is attending the game with his best friend’s daughter, Danni (Lara Peake), and gets involved by accident. Once he starts taking out terrorists, Danni becomes their target. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. When it hits the 90-minute mark, one section of the stadium is going to go up like a dried-up Christmas tree exposed to a spark.
Director Scott Mann, who previously worked with Bautista on the 2015 Robert DeNiro film, Heist, knows how to get maximum bang for the buck. Final Score looks more expensive than the modest budget would indicate. Unfortunately, the level of pyrotechnics and production design isn’t matched by the writing. The performances are adequate for the genre – no one is trying to develop a well-rounded character – but the last act narrative contortions give the movie a lazy, frustrating edge. Despite a premise with some potential, there’s nothing in Final Score that would warrant a recommendation. Game over.
Final Score (United Kingdom, 2018)
Cast: Dave Bautista, Ray Stevenson, Pierce Brosnan, Lara Peake, Amit Shah, Ralph Brown, Julian Cheung
Screenplay: The Lynch Brothers, Jonathan Frank
Cinematography: Emil Topuzov
Music: James Edward Barker, Tim Despic
U.S. Distributor: Saban Films