With a British action film, you’re either expecting something either a bit tongue in cheek like Kingsman: The Golden Circle or a Roger Moore Bon movie, or something down to earth and gritty like early Guy Ritchie films Snatch or Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Well, that’s what you hope for anyway. Immediately Final Score disappoints with a bottom of the barrel lead actor Dave Bautista playing Michael Knox.
With a British director attached in Scott Mann you might hope for some realism, however, if you’ve seen either of his two previous feature credits, you’ll see he is a purveyor of severely average action movies.
The film opens strong with some scenes from the fictional uprising in Sukopia, Russia led by the Belav brothers, the brains Dimitri and the enforcer Arkady (Ray Stevenson). With the death toll increasing, Dimitri is killed and Arkady is soon captured. A scene follows years later with a man being chased down and then tortured by Arkady, who is looking for someone.
The grit of the scenes in Russia is quickly followed with unusually jolly scenes of London. Knox arrives on a blue-skied sunny day and his cheesy dialogue with the taxi driver sets up the poor attempts at humor the viewer will spend the next hour and half cringing at.
The only respite from the cringy dialogue is the introduction of comic relief in the form of the inept Faisal (Amit Shah), who provides the everyman reaction to the situation he finds himself in, reacting with fear and cowardice.
However even Faisal can’t pull off some of the dialogue. Upon Knox and Faisal dumping their first kill in a toilet cubicle, Faisal remarks “Dead on the shitter, just like Elvis.” I’m not sure whether that was an attempt at comic relief but felt clunky and unnecessary.
I think what jars the most is football. It doesn’t sit right. Firstly, West Ham United in the semi-finals of the European Cup, sorry, no. Secondly, a Russian team getting to the semi-finals of the European Cup, again, no.
The shots in the stadium of the West Ham fans just sitting down through the whole game. And I know Knox is American and is bound to call it ‘soccer’ but the number of British characters calling it that is unforgivable. How this got past Scott Mann, I don’t know, it’s as if he’s never even seen a football match in his life.
Having ranted and raved about the storyline and the dialogue, we can now talk about the fight scenes and the action. This is where creativity wins the day.
The first piece of gold being the conflict between Knox and Andrei (Lee Charles) in the lift, as poor Faisal gets knocked around in whatever little space is left amongst the two behemoths going at it.
This close-range action is shot beautifully in close up for most of the fight to make the viewer understand the small space available and the constraints that provide and how there is no escape.
The next moment of genius is the fight between Knox, Anton (Peter Pedrero) and Vlad (Martyn Ford). If you overlook the fact that Knox began with 3 close range shots which he sunk into Anton’s bulletproof vest for no particular reason (headshot anyone?).
The martial arts are fantastic, the use of nearby objects such as pots of green liquid ready for cooking and Anton’s severed fingers falling into the deep fat fryer, all culminates in Anton firing his shotgun through a haze of gas from a cut line causing him to ignite.
Vlad, as expected, initially appears invulnerable to Knox’s attacks, barely flinching from each of his punches. Instead, Knox is thrown around with each retaliation. Knox takes a bit of advantage by thrusting a carving fork into Vlad’s thigh and creating some distance. Vlad regains the advantage, including forcing Knox’s face onto the stove top.
While Vlad then tries to force Knox’s head into the fryer, Knox sees Anton’s knife that landed in the fryer alongside his fingers. Knox plunges his hand into the fryer, grabs the knife and thrusts it into Vlad’s throat, finishing him off by forcing Vlad’s face into the boiling fryer.
After this point, the action moves from the sublime to the absurd, including a motorcycle chase around the tunnels of the stadium, up and down staircases and eventually onto the roof of the stadium.
Somehow Knox manages a leap on his motorcycles of a supposed ‘60-foot drop’ between the south and east stands. The comedic escape of Knox from the top of the stadium swinging like Tarzan on a West Ham banner and into the big screen, his face looking amusingly like George of the Jungle as he smashes into it.
Essentially this is a factory line action film. A mirror image of van Damme’s forgettable Sudden Death (1995), this film is barely two steps away from Die Hard (1988) and therefore a number of replications of the hit 1988 film.
This film goes so close to Bruce Willis’ eponymous action film, the police believe that Knox is phoning in a hoax he has to throw the dead body of one of the terrorists off the roof in order to get their attention, pretty similar to Die Hard.
So, if you like a Die Hard knock offset in West Ham United’s Boleyn Ground instead of the Nakatomi Plaza, you may well tolerate this film. Between Bautista’s terrible dialogue mixed with his gorilla-like figure bumbling through each action sequence, this is not the greatest film.
Pierce Brosnan’s appearance flies virtually under the radar and I did not even mention the quality of the Russian accents throughout this film. Enjoyed the two fight scenes in the middle, but overall, thoroughly forgettable.