Let’s be real. You’ve probably made up your mind about seeing Scott Mann’s Final Score based on the trailer, so nothing I say will likely convince you either way. It does what it says on the tin. Distributed by Saban in the United States, it’s the next in a long line of “Die Hard, but in a _______” movies (see also: Skyscraper, AKA Die Hard in a building), proving that while nobody can do it better than Die Hard, damn near everyone is going to try. In that regard, it sort of defies traditional review (In this economy? HA!) given how its entire basis is transposing familiar beats to a new setting — not the beats of a genre, mind you, but the beats of a single film.

Spoiler alert: It’s fun! It’s not everyone’s kind of fun, but if “Dave Bautista bike chase through a football (err, soccer) stadium” sounds like your way of unwinding with a glass of wine, then by all means, read on.

Dave Bautista Final Score

1. Davey Boy Batista

Bautista’s brief appearance in Blade Runner 2049 ought to have convinced the world of his dramatic chops, but only 2048 people saw that masterpiece in theatres, so here we are. The former WWE alum and current (soon to be former?) Guardians of the Galaxy star brings a sense of guilt-ridden gravitas to Final Score as Michael Knox, the most serious fixture of this otherwise goofy romp. Knox, a former U.S. soldier and current private contractor, flies regularly across the pond to visit the family of his fallen brother, whose death might have been his fault. On one of his trips, he decides to take rebellious teen Danni (Lara Peake) to a West Ham United game where, in true Die Hard fashion, terrorists just happen to be enacting an unrelated plan.

Bautista can certainly turn up the action intensity, but what’s especially delightful about this role is that it feels like the real Bautista, i.e. the thoughtful, soft-spoken guy we see in the interviews. Where most action stars would puff their chests and try to ooze machismo, Bautista instead opts for a quiet warmth that works wonders for his camaraderie with Peake. Their uncle-niece relationship feels real and meaningful, established through playful ribbing and quiet moments amidst the rowdy West Ham crowd, making Knox’s eventual rampage something you want to get on board with. He isn’t out to kill, but rather to look out for someone he’s sworn to protect. The weight of 35,000 other blissful spectators being in danger, however, might prove challenging to his self-imposed duty.

2. The Opening Credits

Everyone loves a good news-reel montage (Gotti fans can attest), but a montage that establishes a completely bipolar tone that the rest of the film lives up to? Now that’s something special.

It is a period of civil war in the fictional Russian state of Sekovia, not to be confused with the fictional European city of Sokovia from Avengers: Age of Ultron. It seems to be the early-to-mid ’90s (Pre-Cold War? Post-Cold War? Hard to say) and the vaguely Russian conflict sets up vaguely Russian rebellion leader Arkady (Ray Stevenson) as the voiceover tells us about the mounting body count, scored by the haunting sounds of… pulsating electronica. Something feels off, but in a way that’s almost alluring. Like walking in to a costume party where you can’t quite tell what the theme is, but you stick around anyway because it might make for an interesting story.

3. Bearded Pierce Brosnan

Who does Pierce Brosnan play? That’d be a mild spoiler, but it almost doesn’t matter. He’s in the movie for all of 30 seconds until the hour mark, after which point he shows up for 10 minutes tops. It doesn’t matter, though. He’s got a big ol’ bushy beard, which is enough to distract from his Russian accent sounding half way between Irish and Scottish.

4. Ray Effing Stevenson

Ray Stevenson’s Arkady is your typical Hollywood Russian, swapping every vowel for the letter ‘O’ as he oscillates between stoic and barking mad. He chews the scenery even when he isn’t speaking (when he is, he swallows it whole), because after all, he’s Ray Stevenson. All you need to do is look into his eyes, and you’ll know a fuse is about to be lit.

5. The Action is Coherent

That might sound like a backhanded compliment, but you’d be surprised how many modern action movies drop the ball when it comes to basic pacing and scene geography. More so than just its logistics, though, the action serves to put Bautista’s Knox on the backfoot. He’s ten times more skilled than John McClane, but the bad guys are a hundred times more skilled than Hans Gruber’s henchmen, making their encounters in locales like kitchens and elevators a special delight. Knox gets hurt, and I mean really hurt, though he hurts back in equal measure. If you want to see a henchman get his fingers lobbed off and tossed into a deep fryer (oh, yeah, that happens), you first need to sit through Knox damn near getting his entire face burned off. It’s a back-and-forth, where each action feels like a reaction to something else, building until Knox figures out a way to MacGyver himself out of every situation.

6. The Film Knows How to Use Its Premise

The thing that separates Final Score from most Die Hard clones is that it could’ve only ever happened in a football stadium. It doesn’t just use crowds, it uses the specific actions, reactions and memorabilia of football fans during key sequences. Are you expecting it to use the actual match and its broadcast commentary to parallel the action for no reason other than it can? Well, you’re in luck. Are you also expecting the villains’ plan to be timed to the 90-minute clock? Wow, you’re good at this! Oh, and a guy gets punched in the face for calling it “soccer.” This film is English as fuck.

7.  Amit Shah

In case the film wasn’t goofy enough already, it features a character whose purpose is comic relief and social commentary, often in the same breath. Timid stadium security guard Faisal Khan gets roped into Knox’s antics, and he spends most of his unwitting tag-along commenting on how ridiculous the situation is. Then again, the alternative would be him standing in front of racist fans yelling “Go home, Paki!” at him, so maybe he’s having a good time recounting his favourite Grand Theft Auto moments to keep calm while lamenting not having taken a job at Arsenal. What’s more, Faisal even goes as far as using the fans’ racist assumptions about him to cause a panic and usher people to safety. Shah is a riot, and the perfect comedic foil to Bautista’s straight-man.

8. The Russians Are Coming!

Russians have become western cinema’s go-to villains once again; having your terrorists be Russian or “vaguely European” avoids the need for racial contextualization (Faisal being a terrorist, for instance, would have been an entirely different can of worms unless there were South Asian and/or Muslim heroes chasing him) though it doesn’t necessarily do well for the stock “evil Russian” stereotype. That said, these particular “evil Russians” vary from totally silly to kind of badass, so maybe just one more of these is okay.

The Russian fans in the stadium, for instance, aren’t just violent from the get go, but they walk around carrying red flares that make their chants in support on Dynamo Football Club seem like Satanic rituals. Henchman Vlad (Martyn Ford), tattooed literally from head to toe, has the biggest shoulders on planet Earth — to the point that it’s distracting, regardless of what you’re attracted to — and his girlfriend Tatiana (Alexandra Dinu) is a maniacal assassin who proves to be Knox’s biggest hurdle. I almost wish she were in charge of it all.

9. Realistic Terror

What’s the actual ideology behind Arkady’s plan? I couldn’t tell you, but the film has no intention of starting political dialogue. That said, while there’s almost no “why,” the film doesn’t shy away from the “how.” There’s a brutality to Arkady that few on-screen terrorists match, and while that sounds at odds with a film I keep describing as “goofy,” it actually fits right in with its jarring shifts in tone. In one moment, Faisal and Knox are exchanging banter over walkies as Knox rides his bike through the stadium, whacking henchmen with fire hydrants and doing wheelies up the stairs. In the next, Arkady is having his manifesto read on-air while performing live executions, which you see unfold on camera in their entirety. After a while, the film’s tonal whiplash becomes its own mystery, making you wonder where it could possibly go next.

And finally…

10. The Whole Film is a Giant Hot-Dog Commercial

Maybe I should’ve opened with this, but I couldn’t resist saving the best for last. There’s a moment early on where Knox buys a couple of delectable looking hot dogs for his niece, and if that had been the end, it would have worked on me. But then, in a scene taking place outside the stadium, an intelligence officer stops mid-sentence while delivering the film’s most important exposition in order to assemble a hot dog, eat it, and comment on how delicious it is. Soon, what seems like a weird in-joke begins to come into view, as scenes of shocking discovery are back-dropped by giant posters for Rollover, the British hot dog company.

Soon, Rollover logos that would’ve otherwise been background subliminal messages begin to reframe the action entirely. Insert shots of hot dogs being purchased nearby find their way into the middle of major action scenes. You know what, though? It’s kind of hilarious. It fits this ridiculous world where fake Russians have vague motivations and Pierce Brosnan is a C-list star. Where racists are stupid to the point of not being able to process basic language and visual information because they’re so blinded by their hate. Where football fans are so into the game that they don’t notice the bike chase happening atop the rim of the stadium, right above their heads. Where Bautista’s Knox buys hot dogs as a peace offering between him and his niece during a vital moment of character, and where the entire plot hinges on Knox becoming vaguely suspicious of a guy’s neck tattoo while holding two giant franks with mustard.

Honestly, you could do a whole lot worse. Final Score, the hot dog movie starring Dave Bautista, is a pretty good time.

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About the Author

Siddhant is an independent filmmaker & film critic working out of Mumbai & New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @SidizenKane.