Final Score is incredibly stupid, but also kind of wonderful
When I first heard about Final Score, I got stupidly excited
It is everything I want in a movie, and it is essentially the sort of fake film I would come up with after about four beers in the pub. Released in cinemas and on Sky Cinema this weekend, Final Score is a Die Hard rip-off starring former WWE Champion Dave Bautista as an American ex-soldier who goes to a West Ham game with the teenage daughter of a dead army buddy, and then Russian terrorists take over Upton Park and he has to kill all of them. And Pierce Brosnan is in it, with a terrible Russian accent for some reason. It sounds more like a joke on Bojack Horseman or something than a real film.
Probably my three favourite things in all of cinema are Die Hard rip-offs, movies starring wrestlers, and cheesy football movies. If only Bautista had had a dog that played human sports, it would have had the full sweep.
I was very cautiously optimistic - on one hand, I was hoping for a film that was both intentionally and unintentionally hilarious, littered with football-based action hero puns, and cameos from famous players. But I was also worried it could go down the Snakes on a Plane or Sharknado route - being self-consciously wacky, mugging to the camera etc. In order for drama to work - even in a film about Bautista saving West Ham from terrorists - it needs to stick to its own dramatic rules, and the second you go “LOL, nothing matters, we’re in on the joke”, it ruins everything.
Thankfully, I can report that Final Score is suitably ludicrous, but also played straight enough to work as a nuts-and-bolts action film. It might not be good per se, but it is rarely boring. It could have done with being a bit more knowing, and there’s no moment where Bautista throws a bad guy through a window, then says "The transfer window is now open”, or anything like that. But it is a movie where Bautista jumps between the stands at Upton Park on a motorbike.
It’s a very low-budget movie, with a definite straight-to-DVD vibe, especially in the opening scenes. The music is cheap and tiny, and the on-screen fonts are all the sort that come supplied with Microsoft Publisher. It has that flat, digital video look. But it also sets exactly the right tone for the movie - incredibly naff, but also completely straight-faced and earnest. Bautista gets off a plane in London, Bautista tells a cheeky black cab driver “I bleedin’ hate, soccer, I do!” Bautista goes to a proper East End boozer and drinks a pint of curiously flat lager.
It plays out pretty much how you’d expect. The terrorists have some demands or other, that don't really matter. A wacky steward becomes Bautitsta’s comedy sidekick (notably, the character is a British Muslim, giving an admirable acknowledgment of East London’s ethnic diversity, even though they do sadly go for the easy suicide bomber gags too often). The daughter of his dead friend gets captured in the second act, and he has to rescue her. You know the drill. It’s the sort of film where helicopter shoot-outs happen above the stands and motorbike chases take place in the gangways, but no one in the crowd seems to notice. Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Sudden Death remains the greatest Die Hard-in-a-sports-stadium movie, but this is still pretty good. Plus Bautista does do a vertical suplex on a guy inside a tiny elevator.
As for the football stuff - well sadly, there’s not really quite enough. West Ham are hilariously playing in the semi final of the “European Cup”, against a side identified only as “Dynamo FC”. And this is certainly the only movie with several action scenes narrated by Jonathan Pearce. The only other cameo is from Hammers legend Tony Cottee, who [SPOILER] gets murdered live on national TV. Which to be fair, is up there with Neymar getting blown up in the opening scene of xXx 3.
There is also a disappointing amount of Pierce Brosnan in the film - he’s the Russian dissident that the terrorist are trying to find, but he doesn’t really turn up until the end. Still, he does do the most amazingly lazy ‘Irish-Russian’ accent.
So yeah, I don’t know if Final Score is truly wild enough to become a cult classic - it will probably just become an odd curio, the fleeting memory that that, yes, there really was a movie where Dave Bautista had to save West Ham from terrorists, and that really did happen. If anything, it’s just another solid effort in Bautista’s filmography, and a testament to how impressive Big Dave's short acting career has been so far.
Obviously, we all knew he had the looks to play a series of henchmen or be a perfectly cromulent action hero, but it's shocking how good an actor he's actually turned out to be. His turn as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy has gotten the most attention, but he gives a memorable, melancholic performance in Blade Runner 2049, and even in something like Riddick he makes an impression. Final Score won't go down as his masterpiece, but he brings some genuine gravitas to the dramatic scenes (Arguably too much gravitas if I'm being honest. There's a few scenes late in the film where they really lay into the pathos of Bautitsa's relationship with his dead friend and his daughter, and really it just slows stuff down. You just want more Russian Pierce Brosnan and explosions. Full marks for trying, though).
But ultimately, Final Score is the dumb fun you want it to be. It's fast-paced and entertainingly stupid, and even more enjoyable if you are already a football or WWE fan. R.I.P. Tony Cottee.