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Final Score (2018) Review

Final Score was directed by Scott Mann (Fall, The Oath), written by David T. Lynch, Keith Lynch (shared credits for Twist, Zero), and Jonathan Frank (Sceptic, The Tournament), and stars Dave Bautista (Marauders, Escape Plan: The Extractors), Ray Stevenson (Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday, RRR), Lara Peake (Mood, Bypass), Amit Shah (Howl, Johnny English Strikes Again), Alexandra Dinu (De Serpentis Munere, 211), Martyn Ford (Accident Man, Max Cloud), Ralph Brown (Hard Tide, Dark Obsession), and Pierce Brosnan (No Escape, Taffin). It’s about an ex-soldier who must save his friend’s daughter and 35,000 others from a group of terrorists who’ve taken over a British soccer/football stadium.

The Plot: Born from a “wouldn’t it be cool if…” conversation from the film’s producers, Final Score’s plot does a huge amount of lifting from Die Hard without hiding it. It’s all the better for it, as the writers put their own spin on it with motives and reveals, making a fine addition to the knockoff canon.

Separatist figureheads/brothers Arkady (Stevenson) and Dimitri (Brosnan) had fought a losing battle against Russia nearly 20 years ago, leaving a movement in shambles when Dimitri was killed. In the present, American ex-soldier Michael (Bautista) is on his annual trip to England to visit his proxy family, including Danni (Peake), the daughter of his old war buddy. Sensing a need to spice up their reunion, they agree to go to Boleyn Ground to see a game, but, predictably, Arkady has plans in motion. The Lynch brothers and Frank have a distinct enough setup here, with revolution replacing fast cash, bringing forth a diverting presentation to Final Score’s same old, same old story.

In the commotion of the game, Arkady and his crew, including couple Tatiana (Dinu) and Vlad (Ford), quietly take control of the stadium and close it off, with exits locked and communications blocked. However, Danni soon goes missing, leaving Michael to search for her until he finds himself in a grander play without much leverage. It’s a faithful recreation of Die Hard’s better moments, only this time there’s another helping hand, as Michael enlists security guard Faisal (Shah) to stop the explosive plan when police chief Steed (Brown) doesn’t believe the threat.

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Predictability isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Final Score has some of its own spice, such as a reveal that Dimitri is in the stadium, making for a search subplot, and the reintegration of the police in the third act. Don’t expect a game changer, but the story is all here.

The Characters: While it’s safe to say no one has come close to making a better McClane, the writers aren’t trying to do that with Michael or any of the other personalities here, creating newish characters with newish motives.

Modern filmmakers have a hard time not dealing their protagonists a physically or emotionally damaged backstory, which remains the case for Michael. He’s a man whose clarity resides in warzones, frequently contracting to avoid thoughts of home, though this doesn’t help when the risk of his friends dying is just as present. Despite this, he still tries to be family oriented and personable, even if his dryness conflicts with the goal. Requisite sarcasm and quick thinking remain, but there’s an engaging core to the character, carried by a very good performance from Bautista.

Side characters like Danni and Faisal aren’t unique but are given personality and small arcs to follow, which is better than most of these films can muster. Danni seems to be an annoying troublemaker at first, leaving Michael to chase boys but soon comes back to Earth when her uncle helps resolve paternal confusion (which isn’t handled greatly), which leads to a redemption moment in the third act. Faisal is an unconfident guard suffering from a motor mouth and being pushed around. His arc is obvious and his traits are a bit thin, but he’s an amusing presence that isn’t just here for screen time.

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Villainous motives and personalities are generally above average in Final Score, with two different perspectives from the brothers creating characters that aren’t just generic bad guys. Arkady wants to restart the fight against Russia, with freedom as his goal, no matter the cost. This conflicts with Dimitri, who faked his death to stop the bloodshed, as there would be no country in the making if all the constituents are dead. Little time is devoted to understanding geopolitics, but solid work from Stevenson and Brosnan conveys the argument well; all of the acting is sound here, as the performers were gifted roles with a bit more meat than expected.

The Action: With a larger playground for filming than one might expect, Final Score offers a handful of great action sequences and fights, and plenty of entertaining chaos. Even if some of it is derivative, it’s always fun.

A majority of the film’s first action scenes take place in tight quarters, which makes for some brutal relentlessness in their own individual pacing. The first is one in which Michael and Faisal are trapped in an elevator with a goon, with a top-down camera perspective working to show the confines and immediate suspense with the destination in mind. This sets the men on their path, with a bathroom break being the last for a few guards, giving Michael a sense of what’s going on.

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Mann hits the peak of the action in the middle of the film, with an extended kitchen fight between Michael and Vlad – two men of huge stature – with plenty of options and hazards, such as stove fires, utensils, and oil. With men the size of Bautista and Ford, the pain comes quick, with Michael suffering cuts, bruises, and searing of his face on a hot tabletop. Vivid violence sells the scene, with one goon losing his fingers in oil and Vlad capped with efficiency. In doing this, a vendetta is created for Tatiana, which comes back rewardingly.

From the 40-minute mark to the end, Final Score is chock full of action and stunts, most of which are highly memorable. A motorcycle chase throughout the halls of the stadium punctuated with a fire extinguisher kill, a leap from a banner, a helicopter showdown, and an exploding stadium are just a few of the moments one can expect here. By its end, the film has stretched its credulity (even McClane couldn’t leap six stories until the last film in the series), and a few moments are a bit bland, but the action overall is some of the best in recent memory.

The Technics: Numerous filmmakers prove that engaging low to mid-budget action films can still be made in the 21st century. Not all are created equal, but outings like Final Score prove the point, for the most part anyway.

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Director Scott Mann had some experience with action filmmaking prior to this, but stylistics still come up short. While creative choices in a propulsive movie like Final Score are purely bonuses, they would serve to keep a fairer balance when story beats are doled out, as the third act gets a bit choppy with its stop-and-start progression. Thankfully, the film is still lean at about 100 minutes without credits, but some tightness could’ve been preserved.

For a roughly $20 million budget, the scale of this outing makes up for stutters and the occasional line of bad dialogue, as it was largely shot inside the real Boleyn Ground stadium shortly before it was demolished. This allowed for more pyrotechnics than one would expect, and strikingly few of these moments (or any moment, rather) utilize CGI to sell the concept. There’s no skimping of practical effects or makeup of any kind here.

Derivative by nature and guilty of a bumpy third act, Final Score is still nonetheless a worthy entry in the Die Hard scenario subgenre for its awesome action, good characters, and relentless pace. It’s no classic (yet), but pizza and soda pair extraordinarily here.

Final Score is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Platforms from Saban Films. And if you want to take your viewing into overtime, FilmTagger can suggest some similar titles.

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