Stars: Nick Nemeth, Glenn Jacobs, Katharine Isabelle, Josh Blacker, Alexander Kalugin, Michael Kopsa, Alan O’Silva, Catherine Lough Haggquist, Jennifer Cheon, Luke Roessler, Zinaid Memisevic, Alexander Mandra | Written by Michael Finch, Richard Wenk | Directed by John Stockwell
Now this is more like it! After finding success in the horror genre and taking a step up in the world with big(ger) budget films starring big name stars, such as Halle Berry in The Call and films like Oculus, WWE Studios have seemingly returned to the low-budget, WWE superstar featuring action movies that originally peaked my interest in the “studio” back in the early 2000s – in the days of The Condemned, 12 Rounds and The Marine – with Countdown.
Countdown sees the WWE give one of their most charismatic underdog “characters” Dolph Ziggler (aka Nick Nemeth) a chance to shine in an action hero role as Ray Thompson, a take-no-prisoners-get-the-job-done cop haunted by the loss of his young son, on the hunt of a madman who kidnaps a young boy and rigs him with explosives – streaming the kids dying moments live on the internet. Defying his captain (played by Glenn Jacobs, aka Kane), Ray takes matters into his own hands. Now, he must beat the clock to stop a psychopath and save an innocent child. Oh, and did I mention some of the action takes place behind the scenes at a WWE event, which means cameos from a number of the companies high-profile wrestlers?
If the idea of another WWE action movie, especially one so tied into the companies television product, doesn’t peak your interest, then some of the names behind the film should. Between them co-writers Michael Finch and Richard Wenk have an impressive roster of scripts for films such as Predators, Hitman: Agent 47, 16 Blocks, The Mechanic AND The Equalizer remakes, plus Wenk was the writer/director behind 80s camp classic Vamp! And director John Stockwell, despite helming a number of dramas (and the godawful Dark Tide), made the superb Gina Carano action flick In the Blood and that experience translates well to Countdown. It also helps that Stockwell’s cast have a lot of experience with action…
There’s one thing WWE Studios action movies have over other direct to market titles are their stars. The years of experience in the squared circle actually pays off when it comes to their superstars kicking arse on screen; and nowhere is that more visible than in Countdown.
Dolph Ziggler has always been an excellent in-ring performer – that’s why he’s called the showstopper – but as an action hero he’s light years above even his WWE persona. Ziggler/Nemeth has always had the charisma but Stockwell also lets him expand his repetoire with a “doesn’t give a shit” man-on-the-edge performance that actually makes Ziggle/Nemeth even more likeable than he already is as a WWE wrestler. It’s actually unbelieveable just how well Ziggler, with the attitude, fits that John McClane style reluctant hero character. Combine that with the fightb skills and you have a fantastic new action hero. I’d certainly like to see the character of Ray take on more bad guys in a sequel or two – just as long as he stays teamed up with actress Katherine Isabelle, who brings her usual, reliable, top-notch acting skills to the role of OPA officer Julia Baker – who’s supposed to be keeping Ziggler character Ray in check, but who ends up realising (as these kinds of characters tend to do) that the reckless way is often the best way to get the job done, even if it means breaking the rules.
Don’t be put off by the incredibly cheesy trailer that has been doing the rounds for Countdown. That makes the film look like a WWE lovefest, with most of the footage taken from the opening scenes in a WWE event, when instead the film is a superb Die Hard with a Vengeance-esque action movie with a pace that never lets up and will that have you cheering Ziggler on to take out the bad guys and rescue the kid!
Countdown is now available, in the US, on iTunes and other VOD outlets.