3 out of 5 stars

It’s not unusual for wrestling superstars to end up in Hollywood. From Hulk Hogan flexing his muscles in No Holds Barred (1989) to the more ridiculous Mr Nanny (1993), the two industries have always had an interesting symbiosis. Fast forward to 2018’s John Cena with Bumblebee, and that relationship is just as strong now as it ever was. Of course, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is by far the most successful example of a wrestler-turned-actor, but even he started off in much smaller roles with The Scorpion King (2002) and worked hard to get where he is today. But sometimes it just takes one film to capture the public’s imagination and make everyone take notice and, for Dave Bautista, that was Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), a Marvel Studios film where he played a muscular dope who can’t understand metaphors.

Since then, Bautista has been a busy man. Wrestling fans have been clamouring for his return to the ring but, other than a short appearance this year, his focus has been on the big screen. With small yet impressive appearances in big movies like Spectre (2015) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Bautista’s been making steady progress and getting his name and face out there. Like Cena before him, he’s managed to pick a versatile range of projects from action to comedy and seems to be having the time of his life.

Bautista has now scored a leading role in Sky Cinema’s original action movie Final Score, available now on home video courtesy of Signature Entertainment. No longer a supporting player, the focus in Final Score is firmly on Bautista’s abilities, and it’s hard to argue against his lead action man credentials based on this. He has the charisma and physique to deliver a performance much like Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme before him, so just needs to find the right roles going forward. Is Final Score likely to catapult Bautista to even greater stardom? No, but it does prove he’s more than just a scene-stealer.

Lazily described as ‘Die Hard in a football stadium’, it’s still hard to argue against that logline, as ex-soldier Michael Knox (Bautista) is drawn into a chaotic battle involving the Belav brothers, Dimitri (Pierce Brosnan) and Arkady (Ray Stevenson). They’ve been at the centre of a Russian revolution which led to the supposed death of Dimitri, although his brother didn’t believe it. To cut a long story short, the investigation leads Arkady to London, where a football stadium makes for the perfect location to take people hostage and make demands to get to the bottom of Dimitri’s disappearance. Knox ends up there with his niece and unsurprisingly gets caught up in the whole mess. It may sound slightly complicated on paper but, let’s be honest, Final Score isn’t a movie you watch for a complex narrative. What you really want to see is action and there’s plenty of that.

There are numerous twists and turns throughout the movie, but it’s really Bautista’s charisma and presence that carries it along and makes it watchable. Without Bautista, Brosnan, and Stevenson there wouldn’t be much else worth watching for, but all three help elevate the script enough to create something more entertaining than the script would read. You could just watch the peerless Die Hard (1988) again, of course, but if you fancy something a little different then Final Score isn’t too bad.

Final Score has its moments of tension and a few good set piece, but there isn’t enough of them. Action movies are a highly competitive genre, even in the low-budget arena, and with so many to watch it’s hard to imagine this will be high on Bautista’s filmography in a few years. I believe he deserves to go onto greater things like Dwayne Johnson, but only time will tell.

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Cast & Crew

director: Scott Mann.
writers: David T. Lynch, Keith Lynch & Jonathan Frank.
starring: Dave Bautista, Pierce Brosnan, Ray Stevenson, Julian Cheung, Alexandra Dinu, Lara Peake & Amit Shah.