A sting operation to capture notorious arms dealer Miles Jackson goes awry when the FBI's inside man double crosses them. Miles rendezvouses with his girlfriend Erica Kessen, who has a getaway car.
Officer Danny Fisher and his partner, Officer Hank Carver, are dispatched to help the FBI. On their way, they look at Miles' record and see a surveillance video of him with Erica. At a traffic light, Danny spots Erica. When they pull her over, Miles comes out shooting, wounding Hank. Erica drives off and Danny pursues on foot but loses his gun in the process. After getting ahead of them he pushes a parked boat into Erica's path and she crashes into it. Picking up Miles' gun, he orders them to freeze. They both run, Erica into the path of an oncoming SUV. She is killed instantly. As backup arrives and Miles is taken away, he swears vengeance on Danny.
One year later, Danny gets a phone call from Miles, who has escaped from prison. Danny runs outside the house looking for Miles. Danny's car and house explode, throwing him to the ground. After he recovers, Miles says he is launching a game of revenge called "12 Rounds". The house, the car, and Phil, the plumber who came to fix a pipe were "Round 1". Danny runs towards the ferry station, where his girlfriend Molly is.
Molly boards the ferry. Miles' henchman, Anthony Deluso, borrows her cell phone under a false pretext, preventing Danny from getting through. Danny reaches the station too late to stop the ferry. He commandeers a car and speeds towards the other side. On his way, he calls Hank, tells him what has happened, and asks him to call the Department of Transportation and have the ferry stopped.
Danny and Hank arrive at the station, but there is no sign of Molly. He tries her cell phone and Miles answers. He has kidnapped Molly as "Round 2". Miles promises that if Danny does all he says and lives through all 12 rounds, he will let Molly go.
For "Round 3", Danny and Hank follow a series of clues to locate the cell phone that Miles calls. For Round 4 Danny has to get to New Orleans Savings and Loan where a fire has broken out and he must extract two security deposit boxes within 20 minutes.
Hank has a lead on the man who helped kidnap Molly, and volunteers to look into that while Danny continues with the "game". FBI Agents George Aiken and Ray Santiago approach Danny and he agrees to work with them to get Molly back. The Feds tell Danny that Miles used a prison riot as cover to escape, and that this revenge game is a good opportunity to recapture him.
At the scene of the fire, Danny runs in with the firefighters, and they find the security boxes. Both have timers set for 7 minutes. Miles calls and says Round 5 has started. One of the boxes is a bomb, while the other contains a clue to the next round. Danny has to get to the Nicholls Street Wharf, and Miles advises him to use a firetruck. Danny hijacks a firetruck and races through the streets. As he reaches the wharf, a bell goes off from inside one of the boxes. Danny throws it into the water, where it explodes.
The other box contains a room key for a hotel. The room is raided and found empty, save a couple of Polaroids of a gagged and bound Molly. The Feds look at the security footage and see Miles talking with a man named Willie Dumaine. Danny goes to speak to Willie. Willie shows him to an old elevator they took to the roof. As they ascend, a small charge fixed to the motor goes off, stopping the elevator. Danny tries to get the service phone, but finds a laptop there instead. It plays a video message with Molly and Miles, telling them they have 60 seconds to get off the elevator before it falls. Danny climbs through a service hatch and pulls Willie through. He tells Willie to take his hand as he climbs the shaft wall. However, the bomb on top explodes, sending the elevator and Willie plummeting. The crash pops loose a gas line.
For the next round, Danny follows a series of clues to a bus where he finds Molly on board, wearing a bomb underneath her jacket. Sitting nearby is Miles. He pulls out the wire Danny is wearing, but the Feds hear his voice and realize he is on the bus. Aiken orders snipers to take position on the overpass, accepting Molly's death as an acceptable loss for stopping Miles. Miles shows Danny that the bomb on Molly's chest is connected to a dead man's switch and handcuffs Danny to a bar. He gives him an envelope with a phone number as the clue to the next round. Danny spots the snipers and pulls Miles and Molly down, just as they open fire. The bus grinds to a halt. Miles ushers Molly out and escapes. When Danny is freed, he tells the Feds about bomb. Hank shows up, and tells Danny he has located Miles's henchman, Anthony Deluso.
Santiago approaches and offers his help. Danny calls the number on the envelope. Miles tells him that there are five numbers inside the envelope, four for cell phones wired to bombs in different city locations, one to disarm all four, which are timed to go off in 60 seconds. Danny and Santiago start inputting the numbers as text messages. However, they run out of time so Danny dials one randomly. Miles answers and tells him his call disabled Streetcar 907's brakes. Danny and Santiago drive off. After a couple failed attempts to stop the streetcar, they drive towards a nearby power transformer. They jump out as the car slams into the transformer, shutting off electricity for the whole neighborhood. Danny and Santiago then run along the streetcar, clearing people out of the way until it can slow to a halt.
In a welding factory, Hank finds Deluso next to an anti-personnel mine planted by Miles. It explodes, killing Hank and Deluso. Danny gets word of this from Aiken. Aiken tells him that he has been obsessed with catching Miles since a Stinger missile which he stole, and Aiken failed to recover, was used to shoot down a passenger plane. Aiken admits he had forgotten that his debt of honor is not about Miles, but about the people he has hurt and those he is going to hurt. Miles calls and says that Molly's bomb can now only be disarmed by Danny's fingerprint. He tells Danny to pay a visit to Erica. Danny, Santiago, and Aiken get into a car and start for the cemetery.
On the way Chuck Jansen, another detective, calls Danny to tell him that all five numbers in the envelope were rigged to the streetcar. Moreover, Miles had cameras monitoring the elevator shaft and set off the bomb five seconds early. Danny realizes Willie's death was orchestrated by Miles and not just a chance casualty. Santiago does a check on Willie and finds he had a second job as a Homeland Security guard. They think back to when the gas line came loose in the hotel. They evacuated three city blocks, including the Department of Engraving and Printing – the Mint. Recalling next the streetcar, they realize Miles was leading them to take out the power, and in such cases Homeland Security comes in to move the unprotected cash. Miles's grudge against Danny was only a cover for him to use Danny as a pawn in his scheme to steal this money.
Aiken tells Santiago to lock down the Mint, while he and Danny go after Molly. As they drive, Danny realizes Miles wanted him to use the firetruck so that he could later steal it, since only emergency vehicles are allowed through. He turns the car around, explaining to Aiken that Round 12 must be a wild-goose chase, since Miles needs Molly, a nurse, to help him escape.
Meanwhile, Miles, dressed as a security guard, uses Willie's card and a false name to gain entrance to the Mint. There he kills all the guards and dumps 100 million dollars in cash into the sewer. He emerges near the Hotel Monteleone, and uses the firetruck's hose to siphon out the water and cash. Using Molly's ID card, he reaches a Medevac chopper on a hospital roof, transporting the money inside a bodybag. He tells Molly to pilot the chopper.
Danny and Aiken race to the hospital roof as Molly takes off. Miles shoots at them, wounding Aiken. Molly hits him with a fire extinguisher, giving Danny the opportunity to reach the chopper and leap on. He and Miles fight inside, while Molly flies. Danny disarms and defeats Miles, but he activates the touchphone-bomb and throws the switch away, leaving 30 seconds until it blows. Danny and Molly jump out into a terrace pool. Miles is left in the exploding helicopter.
- John Cena as Detective/Officer Danny Fisher
- Ashley Scott as Molly Porter
- Aidan Gillen as Miles Jackson
- Brian J. White as Det. Hank Carver
- Taylor Cole as Erica Kessen
- Vincent Flood as Det. Chuck Jansen
- Steve Harris as Special Agent George Aiken
- Gonzalo Menendez as Special Agent Ray Santiago
- Travis Davis as Anthony Deluso
Prior to Aidan Gillen being cast, Al Pacino, Joaquin Phoenix, Kevin Bacon, and Sean Bean were all considered for the role of Miles Jackson.
The score of 12 Rounds was composed by Trevor Rabin, who had previously worked with director Renny Harlin on Deep Blue Sea (with Samuel L. Jackson) and Exorcist: The Beginning (with Ben Cross. He recorded his score with the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Bros. Studios.
The filmed opened at number seven at the box office, gaining an estimate of $1.75 million in its opening day and $5.3 million in its opening weekend. A further $2,498,325 in other countries helped take its worldwide total to $17,280,326.
12 Rounds has received mostly negative reviews from critics. Some critics have noted the film's similarities to 1994 films Speed and Blown Away and 1995's Die Hard with a Vengeance. The film ranking website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 28% of critics had given the film positive reviews, based upon a sample of 61. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an negative score of 37, based on 11 reviews.