“I thought Americans hate soccer.” The Russian villain says. “I’ve been saying it all fucking day.” Dave Bautista’s Michael Knox responds, a US Army veteran who’s visiting England for the “16th time” to check-in on his niece Danni (Lara Peake) and sister-in-law Rachel (Lucy Gaskell) since the passing of his brother in combat for which he holds major guilt and responsibility for. After ruthless terrorists capture his niece amid an intense English Premier League soccer match inside the home stadium of West Ham United, the former lethal American soldier partners with stadium security guard Faisal (Amit Shah) to save his niece and the 35,000 souls from being victims of a massive explosion. Though highly cinematic in its techniques, this film has been made in similar ways, multiple times before. Nonetheless, it’s a refreshing take on the ‘one-man-army’ vs. terrorists plot, since we’ve never witnessed it taking place during a live soccer match.
Scott Mann’s Final Score would have been a hugely successful film had it been made in the ‘90s, where these types of action extravaganzas were prevalent because of their impressive track record of success spawned by the original ‘one-man army’ against terrorists – John McTiernan’s Die Hard (1988). Final Score is Die Hard on a soccer field, as opposed to the Fox Plaza/Nakatomi building Bruce Willis’ John McClane bare footedly maneuvers in a game of cat and mouse to seize German terrorists using political motives as a front to steal millions of cash from a vault. In Final Score, the Russian terrorists are not thieves; they have political motives through and through. 17 years prior to the night of the soccer match, a Russian state is on the brink of a revolution and a quest for liberty. The revolt is led by two brothers, Dimitri Belav (Pierce Brosnan) and Arkady Belav (Ray Stevenson). The documentary style of faux archive footage hammers this backstory in the film’s opening credits. Russian forces are being pushed back with a raging force of rebels who are fighting for their independence. But their quest falls through in failure when Dimitri is reported as deceased which leads to Arkady living a life long search for his long-lost brother whom he thinks is still alive, disguised as an attendant of the current soccer match as a fan in the stadium.
The theme of brotherhood is ever-present on both sides of heroes and villains. Michael Knox takes accountability for his late brothers demise, and on the flip side, Arkady Belav feels mutual guilt, as he’s willing to concoct an ambitious terrorist plot to shutdown all cell phone towers and seize the security control room of the stadium, creating a hostage situation until his demands are met. Like Die Hard, which placed Sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) outside the building in communication with John McClane via a two-radio transmitter, the British Police Sergeant in Final Score is played by Lee Nicholas Harris, who transmits to Knox as they attempt to save the lives of thousands from being killed by dozens of blocks of C4 explosives scheduled to detonate once the match reaches the final 90-minute mark. But if that wasn’t similar enough, Federal Agent Cho (Bruce Locke) intervenes the crime scene outside the stadium and takes over command from the British Police Sgt, the same exact way the FBI Agents in Die Hard took over the jurisdiction from the LAPD. Remember the rooftop scene in Die Hard? Dave Bautista has an equivalent sequence in Final Score, except his is arguably more iconic considering the acrobatic flair he engages in, reminding us that the roof of a soccer stadium displays its own level of intensity and intimidation considering the bright lights and the spectacle of intense fans stomping their feet with passion as their home team scores a goal in conjunction with Bautista saving lives.
This is a cinematic film that would have thrived in the ‘90s. The shots and angles of its cinematography are composed with different frame rates and the adrenaline inducing musical score is pulse-pounding to say the least. The crowd is wild and truly makes you feel like your live at the game and feeling the intensity of the soccer match with the rowdy British fans screaming and cheering. “It’s football, not soccer.” The British Police sergeant reminds us, as he kicks the head of a Russian terrorist. Michael Knox knows nothing about soccer, or “football”, as it becomes a repetitive pun in the film. “Now we can see all the fake injuries up close.” Bautista’s character Knox says, referring to the notorious flops of male soccer players seen over the years as he accompanies his niece when they arrive to their seats. The game of soccer becomes a subject of ridicule throughout the film’s entirety.
Bautista’s Knox builds a loving relationship with his niece that appears genuine. Since actress Lara Peake is angelic in her nature, it makes his pursuit of rescuing her convincing for the audience as we root him on. Despite the films lack of originality, it’s executed in highly entertaining ways with intense scenes of violence instigated by extremely intimidating villains with realistic action, all occurring amid a live soccer match. Bautista rocks another solid performance. There’s something subtly comedic about Bautista’s performance that’s revealed through his anger. We sympathize with his anger and it sparks a contradicting feeling of amusement even when he’s in the most grotesque situations. He brings a certain calmness to the calamity. One modification from Final Score vs. Die Hard is the humor and chemistry between Bautista’s Knox and the security guard Faisal – who is what the limo driver Argyle (De’voreaux White) was to McClane (Bruce Willis) in Die Hard. Faisal accompanies Knox on what becomes a two-man army to save the night. The Scott Mann directed action/thriller, starring Dave Bautista with a third act cameo by Pierce Brosnan, is an impenitent “Die Hard at a soccer a match” retrogression to the ’80s and ‘90s. Final Score was/is a feasible theatrical presentation brought to you with on demand streaming at home, in a throwback to the Peter Hyams directed thriller Sudden Death (1995), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, which was “Die Hard at a hockey match.” Take Die Hard, mix it with Sudden Death, and you have a superior film called Final Score.
Grade: Average | 2 Stars | 75%
Final Score is available for streaming On Demand.