I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Jared McMillan // Film Critic
Sylvester Stallone once said that he thinks of action movies as morality plays in which good triumphs over evil. In its base form, that is pretty much the crux of the action movie. There’s a hero, usually put into circumstances beyond their control, and that hero needs to stop the villain from following through with those circumstances. This formula is also in tandem with some form of violence, whether fists or bullets or swords or cars…they’re all various methods to project instances of the conflict between hero and villain that lead to their climactic battle.
It’s something simple, yet very effective when done right. Sometimes an action movie can be described as a “popcorn flick”, which is pure entertainment without the audience having to parse through metaphors, statements or messages. There can be a disconnect with the audience if they’ve seen a preview heavy on the action sequences, but then get swerved by overindulgent plot as they view the finished product.
Action movies can lose the audience if there is too much verbal storytelling that distracts from the visual storytelling. However, not all good action movies are going to be on every theatre screen in the country. Some lower-budget action movies can be very good if structured properly, by keeping the story lean, and maximizing most of the potential in its visual storytelling. This is what makes FINAL SCORE a winner.
The story focuses on Mike Knox (Dave Bautista), who is in London visiting his brother’s widow and his niece. In fact, he wants to take his delinquent niece, Danni (Lara Peake), to the big West Ham vs. Dynamo FC match. While they’re at the game, Danni runs off while Mike is getting concessions. Meanwhile, terrorists from Sokovia (that fictional country can’t catch a break!), led by Arkady (Ray Stevenson), have hijacked the stadium to find his brother Dimitri (Pierce Brosnan). As Mike tries to find Danni, he becomes the only man that can stop Arkady before he blows up the stadium.
Now, there are some obvious moments in FINAL SCORE that are ripped from other action movies. To be honest, you could probably replace Upton Park with Nakatomi Plaza in certain moments. However, it all comes off as homage rather than theft/lazy scriptwriting. Director Scott Mann and screenwriters Jonathan Frank and David T. and Keith Lynch make sure that any moments are kept in perspective rather than just being throwaways to strike a nostalgic chord. Also, the political terrorism is present but never taking over the story. While Arkady and his crew are nasty villains looking to “take their country back”, the main story revolves around him getting to Dimitri.
Safe to say, though, that none of this works without a believable leading man, and Mike Knox is more than credible in his tactics. A former Navy SEAL, while he has a specific set of skills, a lot of it is in defense. He’s trying to find Danni and they come after him. And, since there’s a rumor he might bow out of the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY franchise, Hollywood just needs to start throwing action franchises at Dave Bautista. Not only does he kick ass on screen, but there was also a vulnerability to Mike that brought a little bit more gravitas to the movie. He doesn’t destroy everyone, there is a legitimate struggle in every fight he’s in.
FINAL SCORE is exactly what a straightforward action movie should be: good vs evil. But also throw in deep fryers, guns, motorcycles, helicopters and explosions. It’s pure entertainment.
FINAL SCORE is in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD on Friday (9/14).