‘12 Rounds': The fight begins

‘12 Rounds': The fight begins

"He's a throwback to a different era of action films, when guys like [Steve] McQueen and [Sylvester] Stallone muscled their way through scenes. It made movies more believable, and more thrilling for the audience."

The "throwback" WWE Studios President Michael Lake is referring to is none other than John Cena, current World Heavyweight Champion and the star of 20th Century Fox in association with WWE Studios' upcoming blockbuster, 12 Rounds -- a film Lake sums up as "a white-knuckle thriller that plays to Cena's physical gifts, as well as his natural acting ability."  (PHOTOS | WATCH THE TRAILER)

There's no question that The Champ has the physical attributes to accomplish pretty much anything he sets his mind to. And his first starring role in the 2006 actioner The Marine certainly established that Cena possesses serious thespian chops. Nevertheless, the early buzz on 12 Rounds is that it will take the Raw Superstar to a whole other level when the film bows in theaters nationwide March 27.

Directed by Renny Harlin, whose helming credits include Die Hard 2: Die Harder, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Deep Blue Sea, 12 Rounds is a cat-and-mouse battle of wits and nerve between unassuming New Orleans detective Danny Fisher (Cena) and criminal mastermind Miles Jackson III (The Wire's Aidan Gillen). When a foiled arms deal costs the life of his girlfriend, a vengeful Jackson escapes prison and kidnaps Fisher's girlfriend, Molly (The Kingdom's Ashley Scott). With Jackson holding Molly as ransom, Fisher is ultimately drawn into a deadly game that terrorizes him and the city at large.

"I wanted this film to have a visual style that complemented John's athleticism," Harlin explains. "But instead of portraying him as a superhero, we've made him an everyman."

Such authentic touches seems to have been foremost on the mind of Harlin, who shot the 12 Rounds script from Daniel Kunka entirely on location in New Orleans. "I've thrown out all the usual tools … fancy dolly shots, cranes and CGI effects … that people expect from a contemporary action movie," he says. "I'm injecting more adrenaline by using an in-your-face, handheld camera style that places the audience in the center of it all. Every scene moves at a breakneck pace. Cena never stops running, jumping or fighting. And it all feels real!"

12 Rounds also stars Steve Harris (Minority Report), Brian White (Stomp the Yard), Gonzalo Menendez (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer) and Taylor Cole (April Fool's Day). Becki Trujillo is executive producer. Mark Gordon, Josh McLaughlin and Michael Lake are producing the film, which is being released in 2009 as part of a newly-inked, first look theatrical/direct-to-video deal between 20th Century Fox in association with WWE Studios.

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