As we seem to be in the middle of a disaster-movie revival (the Rock alone has topped neuvo variations on “Earthquake” and “The Towering Inferno”), it seems sensible enough that someone should blow the dust off 1977’s lesser-remembered 1976 “Two-Minute Warning,” in which a sniper terrorized an American football stadium. (The “disaster” part was really the panicked crowd stampede at the end.) Though actually what “Final Score” is most like, as the press materials duly note, is “‘Die Hard’ in a football stadium.”
If you think that sounds fun, you’d be right: Park your brain cells in the lobby, and this U.K. production about a terrorist attack on a London soccer stadium — with Dave Bautista as Bruce Willis plus 100 or so extra pounds of muscle — is an entertainingly over-the-top ride that doesn’t even try to be “credible.” It’s not quite daft or otherwise distinctive enough to be memorable. Still, this is one hastily-thrown-together genre project (assembled to take advantage of the Upton Park arena before it was demolished in late 2016) that has an air of good-natured, slightly tongue-in-cheek excess rather than formulaic cash-in.
A prologue of fictive news clips chronicles unrest in the “Russian state of Sekovia,” where two brothers, “charismatic politician” Dmitri and “brutal general” Arkady, were “inspirational figureheads” in an independence struggle. But once Dmitri was reported killed in a Russian air strike, and Arkady captured, the attempted revolution flickered out.
Seventeen years later, ex-U.S. soldier Mike Knox (Bautista) is once again visiting London to check in on the widow (Lucy Gaskell) and daughter (Lara Peake) of a mate killed in a war zone under his command. He’s snagged tickets for a European Cup semi-final, and manages to get bratty 15-year-old Danni un-grounded so she can go to the match. Unfortunately, this playoff between West Ham and Russia has also attracted the now at-large Arkady (Ray Stevenson), who hasn’t exactly softened with age — we’ve already seen him stick a large knife into a man’s groin at the start of an “interrogation.”
He’s learned someone will be in attendance whom he’d do anything to get his hands on, “anything” definitely including placing the 35,000 spectators at risk of death by high explosive. His goon squad rather easily infiltrates the facility, takes over the control booth, cuts off all contact with the outside (including patrons’ cell phone reception), and plants bombs all over the stadium. Eventually he interrupts the match broadcast with a terrifying public threat, even if those actually in the stands remain oblivious.
Not so Mike, who in looking for the misbehaving Danni — she’s sneaked off to hook up with the boyfriend (Rian Gordon) mum quite justifiably disapproves of — discovers these criminal shenanigans afoot, along with venue staffer Faisal (Amit Shah). They find a way to alert initially skeptical authorities to the situation, though the latter are helpless to immediate intervene, or even enter the locked-down stadium. Mike must go mano a mano with various terroristic strongmen (plus Alexandra Dinu as one deadlier-than-the-male perp) to keep himself, Danni, the not-so-dead-after-all Dmitri (Pierce Brosnan), and approximately 34,997 others alive.
“Final Score” — which despite that title expends scant attention on the match still going on throughout — is slick and colorful, taking good advantage of the real-life location’s scale and structural complexity. It borders on knucklehead Michael Bay-style action machismo, yet is too humorously self-aware to succumb. (When we meet Arkady’s bruiser behemoth Vlad, played by 6’8″ fitness model Martyn Ford, there’s no doubt he’s only here because the producers couldn’t resist casting one actor capable of making even Dave Bautista look small.)
Director Scott Mann (“Heist,” “The Tournament”) doesn’t bring great individual style to the action set pieces, but they’re lively and sometimes amusingly conceived. One fight in a kitchen makes merrily gratuitous use of a deep-fryer; a cheerfully ridiculous motorcycle chase (yes, inside the stadium) climaxes with an outlandish Evel Knievel-like leap. After that things get a little more ordinary, albeit goosed briefly by a stunt involving a banner that’s right out of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.” There’s also a nice moment when preoccupied Mike runs right across the field during a play.
Possibly the least political movie about terrorism ever made, “Final Score” has no ambitions beyond pure escapism, and it meets its humble goal. Bautista’s bearishly endearing (as well as brick-wall) qualities are well deployed, the villains are all suitably despicable, and
Peake is good as a chav who gets to redeem herself under pressure. Though his lines (and everyone else’s) are nothing special, Shah gives the stock scaredy-cat comedy relief figure a genial lift. Brosnan’s role is basically an extended cameo.
Independently produced, the film has major-studio gloss in all departments, with conventionally pro contributions from the major design collaborators.