Final Score, 2018.
Directed by Scott Mann.
Starring Dave Bautista, Lara Peake, Ray Stevenson, Amit Shah, Alexandra Dinu and Pierce Brosnan.
An army veteran must defend 35,000 people whose lives are at risk when terrorists take over West Ham football ground Upton Park on the hunt for a former revolutionary leader, who is hiding in the crowd.
In May 2016, West Ham United played their last match at the stadium known as Upton Park, or the Boleyn Ground. Two years later, audiences get to see that stadium return as the venue for a terrorism thriller starring WWE wrestler Dave Bautista, who moans a lot about “fucking soccer”, and Pierce Brosnan sporting some facial hair that’s every bit as suspect as his singing in Mamma Mia. The result is Final Score – a Sky Cinema thriller that’s about three times as entertaining as it should be.
Bautista plays Michael Knox – a military veteran who has travelled to London to visit the family of one of his fallen comrades. He has tickets for the final match at the Boleyn Ground and his friend’s daughter Danni (Lara Peake) is an enormous football fan. The match pits West Ham against Russian outfit Dynamo, but there’s something very dodgy going on behind the scenes as a band of highly-trained terrorists led by Arkady (Ray Stevenson) have taken control of the stadium in order to find a spectator lurking in the crowd. When Michael inadvertently discovers what’s going on, he quickly has to turn all Liam Neeson in order to protect Danni and the 35,000 other people in the ground.
The DNA of Final Score is pretty simple. This is a film that plays out like Green Street having a bare-knuckle scrap with Taken, with a sizeable slice of the Fast & Furious franchise’s knowing craziness. It’s a movie full to the brim with mad set pieces, whether it’s a motorbike chase through the stadium concourse set to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Two Tribes’ or the spectacle of Bautista dangling from the scoreboard without anyone in the crowd visibly noticing.
With that said, director Scott Mann knows exactly what kind of movie he is making. Everything here is accomplished with a nod and a wink, from the moment Bautista struggles through a stadium turnstile to the third act scene in which Pierce Brosnan delivers a five-minute monologue about a chicken. Final Score has a joyous sense of humour, helped by its punchy script and Bautista’s willingness to laugh at his own brawny persona on the big screen, and indeed his MCU involvement in one particularly funny quip.
Bautista is handed comedic support thanks to the presence of the wonderful Amit Shah as Faisal – a steward who is clearly totally out of his depth when he becomes embroiled in the violence. He recites the chronology of the Grand Theft Auto games when he’s nervous and is introduced dealing exasperatedly with a racist old woman in the stand where he’s working. Shah gets many of the best lines in the script and steals every scene in which he appears. He’s also at the centre of a climactic joke that is either very funny, fist-chewingly distasteful or both, depending on your sensibilities.
The comedy here wouldn’t work, though, were it not for some fun action. Bautista’s wrestling background manifests in the fight sequences, which have a crunching intensity, as well as an eye for silliness. There’s some ropey CGI at times and there isn’t an iota of narrative logic in the way the contrivances play out, with some of the more out-there moments sticking out for their rather artificial visual feel. The terrorists, themselves, are a fairly identikit bunch and their methods seem rather disproportionate to their goals, to say the least.
But the ludicrousness of this movie is part of its appeal. Mann indulges every action cliché, while making the most of his very unconventional setting. Movies set in the world of football are far rarer than they probably should be given the sport’s dominance of British culture, but Final Score is one that uses the inherent scale and pageantry of the Beautiful Game as a backdrop for the close-quarters madness of a post-Taken thriller. It’s not always coherent, and it’s seldom a slick slice of cinema at its most sophisticated but, like a slightly sloppy Sunday League game, it’s always entertaining.
Final Score is a film that has no problem with its own over-the-top premise and shows that Bautista is one of the most reliable presences around when it comes to bruising action with a side order of silliness. When the final whistle sounds, it’ll have you wishing you could watch extra time and penalties as well.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.