The best thing about cinema is the varied options available. In the mood for something challenging? Pop in Blade Runner 2049 and prepare for a deep dive into a rich world of philosophical complexity. Perhaps you’d prefer something more madcap? Take a journey through the cosmos with the killers that make up the core unit from the Guardians of the Galaxy series. Sometimes, though, a film comes along that neither tries to push bounds nor coddle and contains echoes of nostalgia all under new execution. Such is the case for Scott Mann’s Final Score, a film which – on paper – doesn’t sound like anything new, yet through an impressive execution, reveals itself to be a near-perfect cinematic sugary treat. It’s not too filling, not enough to rot your teeth, but it offers plenty of ooey-gooey goodness you only get from action films from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
U.S. military veteran Michael Knox (Dave Bautista) arrives in London just in time to surprise his niece Dannielle (Lara Peake) with tickets to see the European semi-finals between West Ham United Football Club of London and Dynamo FFC of the Russian state of Sukovia. Unbeknownst to all at the game, former Sukovian revolutionary leader General Arkady Belov (Ray Stevenson of Thor) and his team infiltrate the security and put the entire Boleyn Ground stadium on lockdown. Their plan: to find Arkady’s long-believed dead brother Dimitri (Pierce Brosnan) and reveal him as a traitor to their cause. Everything is going smoothly for Arkady until Knox accidentally discovers the secret forces amid the stadium, along with their stash of C4, putting the stoic, weary Knox as the sole line of defense for the thousands at the game and the thousands more watching at home.
Final Score’s script by Jonathan Frank, David T. Lynch, and Keith Lynch will immediately remind audiences of films like Die Hard, The Last Boy Scout, and Sudden Death, whether through the use of a fish-out-of-water central character, a thematic narrative of redemption, or the trapped-in-a-building staging for the action; however, these only serve to enhance the experience of Final Score because of how the characters engage with these familiar aspects. Wasting no time in setting up characters and motivations, Final Score moves along at a brisk pace, finds clever ways to introduce set-backs, and resolves itself in an absolute clever way that feels fresh despite its obvious influences. While some audiences may feel something’s added to the enjoyable experience of Final Score by catching on to the homages and influences, others may find the film holistically derivative and uninspired. None can argue, however, that Final Score’s DNA is of strong stock and handled with respect by scribes, cast, and director alike.
If you couldn’t pick up on the connection in the films mentioned initially, they all prominently feature Dave Bautista, a man initially known for his intimidating stature and incredible presence. Over the course of the last few years, Bautista has impressed audiences through performances small (2049), large (Guardians), and in-between (Spectre) with each differing in both character and characterization. With everything hinging on his performance, Bautista brings an unsurprising grounding to Knox that’s essential as Final Score escalates, requiring Knox to execute more and more superhuman-esque feats. Whereas many actions films make the lead semi-invincible, Bautista’s performance sells every punch, knife slice, or explosion for an authentic feel. As his counter-part, Stevenson’s General Arkady is tight, emotionless, and perceptive. A man of similar capacity, Stevenson’s performance conveys not just physicality, but intelligence through actions and reactions. It certainly helps that not once does the script seem to grant otherworldly abilities to either adversary as they jockey for position and the actor’s never give any ground either.
Final Score is the kind of film that gives exactly what’s promised: an action film filled with thoughtfully staged fights, silly quips, and ridiculous circumstances. What may actually elicit surprise is a compelling central narrative, brisk pacing, and some genuine surprises that toy with audience expectations. As expected, Bautista carries the majority of the film with Stevenson in a close second. Brosnan’s inclusion would seem to be mostly for the name recognition, especially with his dodgy accent, but, otherwise, it’s a significant enough role that it requires a certain gravitas for the audience to generate any interest. On that, Brosnan never fails. So if you’re looking for some old fashioned thrills, Final Score is right up your alley.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.