My notes on the new time-twister movie Counter Clockwise – which hits US DVD/BluRay/VOD on December 13.
An entry in the surprisingly crowded sub-category of low-budget time travel/paradox movies, this takes a slightly different tack in that its protagonist – who gets in a bad situation when he experiments on himself – accepts early on that he can’t change what has happened/what will happen and keeps hopping back and forth in time to keep things together with seemingly little thought for effecting a better outcome. Even though, in the default reality, he is thought to be guilty of the murder of his wife and sister … and the neurotic chatty hypocritical corporate villain (I don’t need a time machine to tell you we’re going to be seeing a lot more characters like this) appears to get away scot-free.
Ethan (Michael Kopelow), a red-bearded glum guy who looks like a heavyset Woody Allen, is working with Ceil (Alice Reitveld) on a teleport machine – though, when their test subject (Charlie the One-Eyed Dog) doesn’t rematerialise for hours they realise they have exceeded their brief and invented a time machine instead. Late in the day, there’s a witty aside in that the villains who seem to be out to muscle in on the project simply don’t believe what the scientists have done and are instead obsessing about a minor component with other lucrative (and unethical) applications that they can get their heads around. On the day of the experiment, Ethan also has to think about his wife Tiffany (Devon Ogden), who might be pregnant, and his mother (Joy Rinaldi), who is having a birthday party. It’s indicative of the weird, ‘off’ vibe of the film that the hero inventing time travel is only the third biggest thing on his mind – and that he seems more put out by being jostled and dropping an expensive bottle of wine than zapping himself six months in the future where he’s a fugitive from the law and several varieties of goon, his Mom’s an invalid and Tiffany and his sister Fiona (Kerry Knuppe) are dead.
Hopping back to the busy day (several times), Ethan runs into Roman (Frank Simms), a low-rent supervillain, and encounters several thugs with hidden agendae but out of chronological order so that being asked ‘how did you know I was with Syndicate Red?’ enables him to floor a double agent (Aaron Bowden) by knowing this bit of information from a future meeting when he’s in a tough spot on his second or third go-round. As with most of these things (Primer, Timecrimes, Coherence, Time Lapse, Don’t Blink, etc), the point is the tangle as hopping around in time puts multiple versions of Ethan in play – sometimes three of them trying to get away from the same baddies. Yes, the guy who jostled Ethan so he dropped the wine was his future self – and the people pursuing him are so intent they don’t notice a slightly younger version of their quarry just standing there. On top of this, Ethan keeps running into non sequitur weird characters – a building super who asks for his pants, a goon who weirdly wants to rape him (he’s not exactly appealing), a helpful motorist (Brad Bishop) with nothing else to do but drive him from one plot point to the next, an angry nurse (Sharon Ferguson), a cantankerous guy at a baseball field (Chris Hampton) and even an Asian dwarf. There’s a sense that this is not only playing a familiar game, but slyly undermining it – like a jigsaw with too many extra pieces in the box.
It’s at once dryly amusing and – in the home stretch – a bit of a downer. One shocking instance of over-the-top (if inexplicit) sexual violence at the end comes completely out of the blue as a minor thug (Bruno Amato) genially reveals his appalling motivation – though it does pay off a running joke about villains who play the old serial game of waiting ten minutes before murdering the hero just so that his own enterprise (assisted by his future selves) or extremely unlikely circumstances (a non-fatal head wound) can come to his rescue. Co-written by star Kopelow (which might explain why all the hot guys and gals in the film are into his character) and director George Moïse, from a story by editor/producer Walter Moïse.
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