Wednesday, July 03, 2013

NYAFF ’13: Countdown

Technically, this is not a home invasion film, because they invited him in.  Nor is this psycho dug-dealer exactly whom he seems to be—except maybe the psycho part.  Regardless, three privileged Thai expats are in for a really crummy New Year’s Eve in Nattawat Poonpiriya’s Countdown (trailer here), which screens tonight during the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival.

Bee, her boyfriend Jack, and their flat-mate Pam are not big on consequences.  They live the bohemia life in New York and their long suffering parents’ pay the bills.  Ironically, their small time dealer friend sets all the drama in motion when he resolves to clean up his act.  Snoopy Jack thinks he found his connection’s ripped up business card, but it is missing a digit.  Bee adds a 3 in honor of the New Year of 2013 and presto, Jesus (that is with the Spanish pronunciation, mind you) is on his way over with fresh weed.

For a while, the three entitled kids enjoy smoking up with the scraggly looking dealer, despite the rather odd remarks he occasionally lets slip.  As the more responsible one, Bee slowly picks up on Jesus’s bad vibe, but with Jack and Pam out-of-their-minds high, she is no match for the large, angry man.  Ominously, he also seems to know secrets about them that a garden variety dealer should have no way of knowing.  Man, are these cats going to miss Dick Clark.

Countdown starts in a hip Kevin Williamson bag, but things quickly get biblical.  Following in the tradition of old school E.C. Comics morality tales, Bee, Jack, and Pam have been bad kids, so viewers will not be overly disturbed when Jesus puts the screws to them.  Still, Poonpiriya takes the action to some thematically dark places and does not skimp on the physical violence.

As Jesus, David Asavanond makes a killer villain, so to speak.  He struts about and delivers his heavy dialogue with the authority befitting an avenging whatever.  However, Jarinporn Joonkiat also does some real acting as Bee.  She actually makes her a complex, believable character, which is quite impressive in a neo-exploitation genre mash-up.  Essentially, Pachara Chirathivat plays Jack as the character demands: weak and annoying.  Likewise, Pattarasaya Kreuasuwansri certainly looks and acts the part as the shallow but photogenic Pam.  Indeed, the small, game cast does what they need to do to keep the bloody mayhem on track.

Countdown has the potential to become a midnight movie perennial.  Poonpiriya incorporates his New Year’s Eve countdown motif in clever ways, while Asavanond’s gleefully Mephistophelian turn is tailor-made for cult-fandom.  Recommended for experienced NYAFF patrons, Countdown screens tonight (7/3) at the Walter Reade Theater, but repent before you go.