There are divergent ways of viewing “Final Score,” an action thriller starring Dave Bautista as an ex-Navy Seal battling a group of Russian rebels who have taken over a London stadium during a soccer match.
If your idea of light entertainment does not include fare that could turn up as a breaking news chyron on CNN, “Final Score” is likely not your kind of film. On the other hand, if seeing a brave American almost single-handedly dispatch accented baddies while debating heroism, sacrifice and survivor guilt sounds cathartic, you could do worse than this energetic Scott Mann-directed film.
After numerous supporting roles including the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series and “Blade Runner 2046,” Bautista comfortably steps into leading man territory as the gruff, soccer-loathing Yank, Mike Knox. In London to check on the family of his fallen comrade-in-arms and best friend, Knox takes the man’s teen daughter Danni (Lara Peake) to see West Ham United play host to Russian powerhouse Dynamo FC in a European Cup semifinal.
As Knox tries to keep Danni away from frisky boys and out of harm’s way, a lethal Russian squad led by General Arkady (Ray Stevenson) locks down the stadium, searching for the general’s brother Dmitri (Pierce Brosnan in a brief but crucial cameo), the charismatic leader of a state revolt 17 years earlier and thought dead, but actually living in the U.K. under an alias.
In no time at all, Knox is trading body blows, gunshots and knife thrusts with the terrorists as the game clock ticks up to 90:00, the moment when a cache of C-4 is set to detonate if the Russians don’t have Dmitri. Strategically cast for global appeal, “Final Score” is an effective update of the type of action flick that regularly topped the box office charts in the 1980s and ’90s before being eclipsed by superhero movies.
Working from a script by Jonathan Frank, David T. Lynch and Keith Lynch, Mann proves equally efficient at action and drama. The characters are familiar movie types sufficiently fleshed out and well performed to hit all the emotional and comedic cues. The fight scenes and stunts — especially a masterfully choreographed motorcycle chase throughout the stadium — and a lack of obvious CGI provide the requisite thrills.
The implausibility that all this mayhem could go on in a packed stadium without any of the 35,000 fans, players or on-field officials noticing may actually help you stop thinking about that chyron.
Rated: R for strong violence and language throughout
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Playing: Starts Sept. 14, AMC Universal CityWalk 19; also on VOD