In addition to flooding the entire globe with an abundance of trashy wannabe celebrity types, reality television has infected a generation of budding filmmakers with the dreaded Faux-Reality TV Disease, commonly known amongst industry professionals as FRTVD. This condition is spreading rapidly, turning would-be directors into impossibly lazy storytellers who believe their moldly product to be fresh, new and daring. It’s a sad sight to behold, especially when you end up with something as limp and lifeless as James Nowlan’s “Countdown.”
Here’s the setup: Six individuals are unceremoniously tossed into a cluttered derelict warehouse with a sleazy guy in a bad suit and his chubby heavily-armed sidekick in order to play a nifty little game called Countdown. After a brief rundown of the rules, the contestants are forced to endure a number of mildly intriguing scenarios involving sharp objects and gruesome bodily harm. Only one person will emerge from the building with life and limb intact, though I seriously doubt you’ll really care who, exactly, lives to tell the this mind-numbingly boring tale to the world.
For a film that wants you to believe it’s an honest to God reality television program, “Countdown” does very little to invoke the feeling that you’re actually watching regular people interact with one another in a real world setting. Every sliver of dialogue is clumsy and calculated, every reaction blocked and scripted. Furthermore, the flick never comes close to resembling the latest addition to the medium its trying so desperately to emulate. Note to those directors who would follow inNowlan’s footsteps: Reality TV shows usually don’t resemble dodgy microbudget projects financed by the loose change lurking beneath tattered couch cushions.
Some of you may be wondering aloud, “Could something have been lost in translation? After all, you’re just a typical lazy American who speaks poor English.” This is a very valid argument. Visual hiccups aside, the humor and/or message of Countdown could have easily been lost in translation thanks to a set of poorly-translated subtitles. While I’m almost willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, shoddy acting is shoddy acting in any language. Period. I don’t need aninterpreter to tell me that most of the cast is beyond dreadful.
Uneven, unfunny and unfortunately scored with a sporadic set of tinny techno beats, James Nowlan’s “Countdown” isn’t worth much more than Brian Dunkleman’s sorry excuse for a career. Even if you shaved off the first twenty minutes and gave it a fresh set of glossy white subtitles, you’d still have to deal with the uneven pacing, the horrible acting, and some pretty lousy camerawork. Other films have certainly tackled this increasingly familiar technique more competently in the past. In other words, take your entertainment dollar to someone who gets it right.