Director: Scott Mann
Cast: Dave Bautista, Pierce Brosnan, Ray Stevenson, Amit Shah, Lara Peake
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“It’s not soccer, it’s football!” yells a police chief halfway through Final Score, before punching an American intelligence officer in the face. If that sounds daft, it’s par for the course in Sky Cinema’s new original film. The premise is ludicrous on every level: West Ham United are in the semi-final of a European tournament. Terrorists are planning to blow up the stadium. And Pierce Brosnan is there, sporting a great big bushy beard. Stop us when this is getting too silly.
Pitched as Die Hard in a football stadium, the movie stars Dave Bautista as Michael Knox, an ex-soldier who is attending the match between the Hammers and Dynamo with Danni (Lara Peake), the daughter of a fallen comrade. When he notices something suspicious in the crowd, though, it becomes apparent that a band of Russians are set on wreaking havoc: they plan to hold the stadium hostage and bargain the 35,000 people at risk in exchange for a political ransom. Before you can say “Where’s Bruce Willis?”, Danni has done a runner, leaving Uncle Mike to hang out with a troublemaking boy – and Knox is torn between finding her and saving the lives of everyone inside the stadium.
With such a knowingly daft starting point, it’s a shame that the film doesn’t quite relax enough into the silliness to let the audience join in the joke; everything is delivered with the straightest of faces, closer to Olympus Has Fallen than Die Hard. But there’s more originality in this knockabout thriller than the whole of Olympus Has Fallen.
That’s partly thanks to the cast. Lara Peake and Bautista sell their bond convincingly, even if Pierce Brosnan as the elusive Dimitri is a little too far-fetched to believe. Are importantly, though, director Scott Mann knows how to make the most of his unique setting. He throws the action around every conceivable part of Upton Park: motorbikes race past food courts in the concourse, people flee from bad guys by sneaking under flags in the crowd, and Dave Bautista jumps around the roofs with a gun.
There’s more to a decent Die Hard knock-off than nifty set pieces, though, and it’s here that Final Score misses the net: no matter how grizzled Bautista’s punch-ups get, the bad guys sadly struggle to leave much of an impression, despite Ray Stevenson’s presence as Arkady. Fortunately, that void is filled somewhat by Amit Shah, who steals the whole show as Faisal, a well-meaning steward who gets caught up in the action. The result is hardly a classic, but with his comic relief, Bautista’s physical clout and a strong sense of location, this likeable British thriller knows a thing or two – and not just the difference between soccer and football.