Michael Knox (Dave Bautista) arrives in London to visit the daughter of his dead brother. Uncle Mike takes his niece Danni for a fun night out at the football stadium – i.e. they’re gonna watch a soccer game to all us American folk.
Meanwhile, Arkady Belav (Ray Stevenson) is unleashing a plan. Years back he and his brother Dimitrit led a Russian revolution. Arkady was captured and Dimitri was killed – or so it appeared. He actually faked his death, cooperated with authorities and had some major reconstructive surgery to make him look like Pierce Brosnan. He’s also attending this soccer game – and Arkady is determined to find him.
What better way to track down his long lost brother than when he’s one of the thousands of fans in attendance at a soccer stadium.
Arkady and his team of violent mercenaries seize control of the stadium, lock it down, wire the place with explosives, set out on their search for Dimitri and the clock starts ticking down for a big bang.
But they didn’t count on Knox, who happens to be an experienced ex-military man and like so many action heroes before him, is in the wrong place at the right time. He will do anything to protect his niece and save all these 35,000 soccer fans from these baddies!
Lets get this out of the way – Final Score is clearly ripped from the ‘Die Hard Blueprint’.
Let’s see. A single location getting taken over by terrorists, a lone hero, an endangered family member, phones going dead, finding a bag of C4 explosives, contacting police on a walkie talkie, writing terrorist info on his hand, throwing a dead bad guy off the roof to get outside attention, one terrorist wants to personally kill this hero because he killed someone they care for.
When one of the terrorist cronies tells Stevenson something will take a while, he replies in typical Hans Gruber fashion, “Don’t waste time talking to me.”
Does any of this sound familiar?
Never mind the comparisons to Die Hard, it’s so obvious they might as well have subtitled this ‘Die Hard in a Soccer Stadium’. Or as someone reminded me, that Final Score is basically a remake of Sudden Death – Jean Claude Van Damme’s 1995 ‘Die Hard in a hockey arena’ movie. This is the same thing, just a different sport.
Final Score isn’t striving to be anything original or deep. It just tries to be entertaining – and it succeeds.
The action is lively, bloody, and pretty well put together. Director Scott Mann (who Bautista has worked with before) stages the sequences in rather a routine, but effective fashion.
At times we get too much of that handheld, shaky cam work (I thought that was finally dying off, but it’s still hanging around), but the action scenes for the most part are satisfying.
There’s a brutal fight in an elevator, a grisly fight in a kitchen. a ludicrous yet fun motorcycle chase on the roof. Good and bad guys get shot in the head, there’s stabbings, a run in with a deep fryer, Bautista is running around for most of the movie with his faced cut up with blood. (I kept thinking that must of been hell for the continuity and makeup person to keep track of). I was enjoying it much more than I expected.
Unlike, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, whose action career has turned into a series of PG-13, family friendly lightweight ‘action fare’, Bautista looks like he’s capable of filling the harder-edged old-school, R-rated action that fans of the genre crave.
Action films like this might not break the box office like they used to. There was a time when no one was shocked that an R-rated action movie was the most popular thing in theaters.
Today, it’s become more of a rarity and studios have become more resistant towards them, wanting to dull them down until they’re safe enough for the kids too. They did that with the last two Die Hard movies! The last Terminator was a harmless afternoon romp.
These genuine bloodier action flicks are being forced to find their success on streaming services and home video. Final Score looks like a film that time traveled from the 1990’s to today – and I mean that as a compliment.
I was further impressed when after I watched it I found out the budget was only $20 million! That really surprised me. They were able to make the most with that money and made this look like it was in league with the ‘big boys’, while also delivering the action goods.
In comparison to these big-budget ‘action’ movies that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and look like a CGI video game, Final Score ends up being much more satisfying. I have to tip my hat to them.
Bautista has a quiet charisma to him. He looks huge and imposing, but he brings a vulnerability to his character and play the ‘everyman’ hero these flicks require.
He loves his niece, he’s scared, panicked, running around desperate. He does a good job in this and can handle being the lead in an action flick. Maybe this could turn into a series for him. There are a lot of different sports that have big crowds watching them. For the next movie he could score some tickets to the Olympics!
Then there’s that fight in the kitchen when he looks like the underdog going toe-to-toe with this giant baddie played by 6’8 Marrtyn Ford! I don’t know how they found that guy! He’s huge! How big are they growing people nowadays?
The rest of the cast kind of falls by the wayside. While they all fulfill their required duties with their roles, there’s no one who really stands out. Stevenson does a usual lead baddie turn. Alexandra Dinu is the thirsty for blood female badass terrorist who looks menacing and is obsessed with killing Bautista.
For Brosnan fans thinking they’ll be seeing a lot of him in this, they’ll be disappointed. Despite him being promoted right alongside Bautista, he is not in this much. It’s almost like he’s given an extended cameo. It’s a pretty thankless part really. I know he does a lot of direct-to-video fare nowadays, but him showing up in this part does seem a bit odd. Maybe he did this for a quick easy paycheck.
Bautista needs an ally, like most heroes in these type of movies, and he finds it in Amit Shah. He’s an Iraqi security guard who manages to overcome his fear during this event, lends a helpful hand and provides some comedy relief. At times he edges on being annoying, but he ends up not being too bad. Then there’s Bautista’s niece, who is fine but unmemorable.
There’s the usual cops and FBI outside the stadium talking with Bautista. They just tread through those reliable type of scenes explaining to us how important the situation is and blah blah blah.
The same goes when the movie quiets down for reflective personal moments between uncle and niece and the philosophy of Brosnan. We don’t really care about any of that, we just want to see Bautista kill more bad guys and do more Evel Kenival motorcycle jumps.
Let me reiterate – there’s nothing original going on here. We’ve seen this all done before and it’s completely preposterous.
Somehow not one person in the stadium is aware of all these terrorists running around. Everyone is just so hypnotized by the game on the field the situation must fall on Bautista’s wide shoulders to save the day. They play all of this without a hint of self-mockery and stick to being serious about it.
As long as you can let yourself be like the oblivious soccer fans eager to not let common sense distract you, Final Score manages to be cheesy fun thanks to Bautista and its execution. It makes for a good Saturday night popcorn flick. Just be like one of the soccer fans in the movie, not think too closely about what’s going on and sit back and enjoy the game.
This really shows what a successful template Die Hard set all those years ago. Even though we’re all familiar with it, we know we’re watching a movie that’s imitating and/or influenced by it and can easily predict how everything will play out immediately, it can still manage to work and be a fun time.