The first thing to know about the 2016 actioner Countdown is that it’s a WWE Studios production. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s directed by John Stockwell, who helmed the 2002 surfer movie Blue Crush. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that either. Finally, Countdown stars WWE superstar and stand-up comic Dolph Ziggler.
The wrestler, who made his debut as a caddie and worked his way through to “The Show Off,” has no real personality to speak of in this cinematic venture. In fairness, the Richard Wenk script is more generic than most direct-to-video efforts and the production design leaves a lot to be desired.
Ziggler stars as Seattle cop Ray Thompson. He’s a bit of a wild one due to a personal tragedy. After a questionable decision, Ray finds himself under the watchful eye of Internal Affairs’ Julia Baker (Katharine Isabelle). The chief of police (Kane) isn’t overly pleased with his antics either, but everything changes when a mysterious package leads to a kidnapped kid strapped to a bomb.
Because Ray is targeted personally, he heads out to find the kid and stop the bomb. He’s on the clock and teams up with Julia. The path takes them through the usual paces, like to a tattoo parlour and some sort of unremarkable industrial site and a WWE live event. All the while, some Russian arms dealers are after him.
Countdown blares out of the gate with a hard rock-oriented score that never lets up, giving the picture an out-of-date quality that is kind of commendable. The camera leaps across the Seattle vista to provide a sense of place, but the action shifts to Vancouver in hopes that no one will notice.
Of course, this decision skimps on any sense of place and removes any atmospheric effects from Seattle. While the climate is similar, Vancouver’s landmarks are hard to miss – especially when the action pokes into the Pacific Coliseum for a WWE live event after Ziggler picks up his tickets from the Rogers Arena.
Now, said event sets up what Countdown believes is a major moment. Ziggler marches around the full-ish arena and people mosey around in the background. He walks through the live crowd and picks up the bag as action continues in the ring. And a chase sends him behind the scenes, where he super-kicks Rusev and earns praise from Lana.
If none of this makes sense, you’re not the target audience for Countdown. The film banks on a fair degree of WWE savvy, at least when it comes to having the physical confrontation between Kane and Ziggler actually mean something.
In cinematic terms, there’s little to speak of. The plot is passé and there’s no sense of import, even when the aforementioned scene threatens to toy with The Man Who Knew Too Much’s renowned Royal Albert Hall sequence. Ziggler is mostly to blame, as he can’t seem to demonstrate concern even when a seven-year-old’s life is at stake.
Isabelle fares well and brings something resembling a personality to the table. But even she looks like she’s holding back, which is a shame considering how downright entertaining she can be. It doesn’t help that most of her lines are designed to observe and report what’s going on. Ponder her dialogue during the car chase: “Look out. Watch out. They’re coming up on the side. Look out.”
Only the uninitiated go into a movie like Countdown and expect something great. WWE fans may find a host of bleached curiosities and that’s fine. But at its core, this is a tepid action movie with a monotonous star, a better co-star and a bomb threat explored with about as much tension as a bus trip from Seattle to Vancouver.