(Original Publication Date: September 13th, 2018) By: John M Jerva

REVIEW: FINAL SCORE

STARRING: Dave Bautista, Ray Stevenson, Lara Peake, Amit Shah, Lucy Gaskell, Ralph Brown and Pierce Brosnon

DIRECTED BY: Scott Mann

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Official Synopsis: Believing his traitorous brother Dimitri (Pierce Brosnan) is somewhere in the stadium, Arkady (Ray Stevenson), the former leader of a revolution in the Russian state of Sukovia, locks down the Boleyn Ground during the European semi-final between West Ham United and Dynamo FCC. In the crowd with his niece, Danni (Lara Peake), is US- veteran Mike Knox (Dave Bautista), who stumbles upon the plot and goes about taking out Arkady’s heavily armed team. Can he get to Arkady before Arkady gets to Dimitri? The fate of 35,000 people inside the stadium – and many more in Russia – depends on it…

THE REVIEW: Dave Bautista has truly reinvented himself from his glory days when he was one of the most popular stars of the WWE> Bautista owned the ring and the crowd every time he walked out to compete and ever since he has left the part of his life behind, he now owns the next phase as well as one of cinema’s most commanding screen presences. Bautista is a natural on film and he has been reaping success of late as he has been excelling in the MCU as Drax in MARVEL’S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Now, of course, that is what most people relate him too right now but he has also been cleaning house in other such films as BLADE RUNNER 2049 and HOTEL ARTEMIS. Now, Bautista has proved once again that he is a true on screen action hero as he has laid the foundation for others to follow with his newest offering FINAL SCORE from director Scott Mann who has also helmed some epic action flicks like THE TOURNAMENT. Bautista also starred in Mann’s HEIST and while he really didn’t do as much in that film, here he delivers an outstanding performance in FINAL SCORE that not only excels in the action department but he shows off his acting chops as well.

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Bautista stars as Michael Knox, who is a former Army soldier who now works in the private sector. He carries a heavy burden however since he lost his entire team when a mission went awry including his best friend. Now, he looks after his comrade’s family which includes his widow Rachel (Gaskell) and her spunky 15 year old daughter Danni played by Lara Peake who live in London. While visiting them on a trip back to England, Knox scores some tickets to a highly publicized soccer match that is the hottest ticket in town. Danni used to go with her dad and Knox thinks it would be great to take her and reconnect with her. Unfortunately, a rogue Eastern European war criminal by the name of Arkady (Stevenson) has nefarious plans to take the stadium over in search of his long thought dead brother Dimitri (Brosnan) who betrayed Arkady years ago. Now, Arkady wants him back and he will do anything, including blowing up the stadium, to get him and with his mercenary army at the ready, he will turn the night into a warzone. Knox must bust into overdrive with the help of one of the stadium’s employees Faisal (Shah) to save Danni and the 35,000 spectators from certain death. 

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Lets just get the comparisons to DIE HARD and Van Damme’s SUDDEN DEATH out of the way as FINAL SCORE borrows heavily from both films but even though it isn’t original by any stretch of the imagination, it still is one hell of a good time for action fans and the main reason is Bautista who brings it as Michael Knox. As I mentioned earlier, it is a given that Bautista excels in the action sequences but he also brings a deep layer to his role of Knox. The man carries a heavy burden of losing his team in combat and Bautista portrays it to a “T” with a great emotional performance that is also no nonsense at the same time. We all know that Bautista is a beast but he sure can act as well. Bautista shows us that he can play anything but he will always be a true action hero now. Ray Stevenson, who I will always consider one of the best Punisher’s ever, delivers another great performance as the sadistic Arkady. Stevenson plays him as a cold calculating individual who has a quiet, reserved demeanor at the same time. Arkady is like a lion ready to pounce and Stevenson has a lot fun playing him. The two leads play off each other well and execute a great chess game between them with the lives of thousands hanging in the balance. 

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The rest of the cast is stellar as well and Pierce Brosnan isn’t in the film for long but he shows off his commanding presence as always while he’s onscreen. He is the type of star that can only be in a movie for five minutes but still elevate it to the next level. Lara Peake is great too as Knox’s surrogate niece Danni and even thought she spends the whole movie in danger she proves that she isn’t the traditional damsel in distress by any means. Amit Shah’s Faisal delivers come much needed comic relief in spots and he plays off Bautista very well as athe direct polar opposite to Knox. He may come off a little annoying at first but he redeems himself later on. 

FINAL SCORE, like I said, borrows heavily from SUDDEN DEATH and DIE HARD but I feel that this movie is far superior to Van Damme’s entry back in the 90’s. DIE HARD is such a classic that it was inevitable that it would spawn copycat versions throughout the years but FINAL SCORE is top tier in its handling of the material. We know what we are getting even before the movie starts but that is OK because once it gets going, and gets going it does, it is a great thrill ride from start to finish. 

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Director Scott Mann has already demonstrated that he can film action with his cult classic THE TOURNAMENT which was released back in 2009 but here he has more to work with and he takes it to the bank and then some. The action in FINAL SCORE is relentless with Bautista’s Knox taking a pretty good licking as the film goes on. He’s not invincible and this gives him a much needed connection with the audience. Sure he kicks a lot of ass but he gets his kicked a few times too. Once the race is on, FINAL SCORE delivers some pretty decent R rated action which includes your usual shootouts but is also adds a thrilling motorcycle chase within the stadium and a rooftop finale that is both exciting and taut at the same time. The highlight for me was a rather awesome close quarters fight scene between Knox and a merc that is choreographed to the hilt. It is realistic, brutal and swift all at the same time. There are some pretty brutal moments in the film and it is always refreshing to watch a good adult action oriented film. I was literally holding my breath at one point and even though I knew it would work out, there was still a feeling of uncertainty with what the outcome would be. 

With FINAL SCORE, Scott Mann has crafted a well oiled action machine that isn’t original but it is exciting and layered at the same time. Dave Bautista shows us that he is certainly in the league of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger and that he owns this type of film. Bautista can surely do any kind of genre but it will always be the action film that he will best be remembered for. As a star in the WWE, he showed us what he was capable of and now it has come to fruition. Ray Stevenson and Pierce Brosnon always bring their A game in any film that they are in and here they compliment Bautista and elevate a movie that you have seen before. Don’t let the fact that this film is like those others because it develops a persona all its own and that is something hard to do in this day and age of action cinema. FINAL SCORE delivers the goods and more I for one would love to see Michael Knox kick ass another day.  

VERDICT: ACTION-FLIX APPROVED!

FINAL SCORE hits select cinemas, VOD and Digital this Friday from Saban Films

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