Countdown (2016)

In a rather pleasant reversal of the usual “X’s girlfriend / wife” sexist reporting, WWE wrestler and star of this movie Dolph Ziggler is perhaps most famous for being the ex-boyfriend of comedy superstar Amy Schumer; he’s another wrestler whose career began after I stopped watching pro wrestling, so I have no background to give you on how well he “acts” in the squared circle. He did host a few online shows for WWE, and has both acted and done standup comedy, so even saying that I was certainly less nervous coming in to this than I have been for other WWE movies.

We’re introduced to undercover cop Ray Fitzpatrick (Ziggler) in a fun sting operation, where he has to shoot his partner, who’s wearing a vest, in order to maintain his cover. He plays by his own rules! In case you weren’t sure about what a loose cannon he is, his boss Lt Cronin (fellow wrestler Kane, who looks like a crude chainsaw sculpture of a human being) and Internal Affairs officer Julia Baker (Katharine Isabelle) point it out to us in an early scene. Turns out, shooting your partner, even if it was sort of necessary, is frowned upon and he’s suspended!

Ray is troubled because his kid died a few years ago…at a police picnic…due to a drunk cop crashing his car into him. He sued the department and lost, his marriage broke up but for some reason he kept working at the place that closed rank to protect the person who murdered his son? I’m sure it makes sense to someone. Anyway, he’s about to leave work for good when one of the many hate-mail packages he gets every day turns out to be the real thing – a link to a website where there’s a video of a child being held hostage, strapped to a bomb. He wants $2,000,135.50 and, even though he’s not un-suspended, Ray is right back in the thick of things trying to rescue the kid and solve the case.

In a scene I’m surprised they’ve never done before, they chase the kidnapper through a wrestling event, with a few very brief cameos from other pro wrestlers (I was sort of hoping he’d watch a Dolph Ziggler match and go “this guy sucks”, but no). But, dear reader, all I could think about was “how did he bring all that ransom money into an arena? They made me clear my pockets out the last time I went”, and “he left an unattended bag on the front row of a wrestling show? Come on!”

Then, it seemed Julia decided to help Ray out, even though he remained suspended til the end. Perhaps I missed a bit where they bonded, with my cat jumping on me and shaking me from my action-movie reverie. But, he’s got to track down the kid in a small number of hours, and he’s not got time to be nice, or to not torture and brutally beat everyone who gets in his way. You can be forgiven for tuning out on act 2 a little, because there’s a really weird bit where Ray is arrested thanks to a fake paper trail left by the villain of the piece, and has to escape from a police station where no-one apparently feels like shooting him despite them all having firearms. But the ending is fine and action-packed.

Kudos to the guy who choreographed the fights, as they’re really good, and Ziggler is great in them. The punches, kicks and throws look like they actually hurt, and everyone else does their part well. Kudos to the actors, too – Ziggler is excellent, and Kane, it turns out, could totally have a career in the movies. I don’t want to get too effusive, but he’s a monster who can do a decent blue-collar cop. Isabelle is the best, for me, as I’ve been a fan of hers since “Ginger Snaps” and while she never got the star-making role she deserved after that, she’s never less than entertaining.

Also, I actually believed they filmed in Seattle for a while – I know, it’s obviously Vancouver, because it’s always Vancouver, but they hired a guy to edit in shots of downtown Seattle with the shots they’d already filmed, and whoever that person is did it well.

Finally, even though the middle was a bit dull, WWE hired a real proper director to make this, and it shows. John Stockwell, former actor, has directed “In The Blood” (the Gina Carano vehicle we thoroughly enjoyed) and is in charge of the new “Kickboxer” movie, which is either going to be awesome or miserable. Please be awesome!

Anyway, it’s exactly what you expect when you think race against time movie, starring a wrestler. But probably better. I expect bigger and better things from Ziggler and Stockwell in future, so keep an eye out.

Rating: thumbs up

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