Counter Clockwise is a sci-fi thriller/dark comedy about a scientist who accidentally invents time travel and is zapped six months into the future. He finds himself in a sinister upside down world where his wife and sister are murdered and he's the main suspect. He's forced to go back in time to uncover the mystery surrounding their deaths.
I know that in this day and age, movies over 90 minutes are a tough sell. But if you look back on horror or sci-fi classics (say something like Aliens or the original Dawn of the Dead – both well over 2 hours) – it becomes apparent that if something is good enough and entertaining enough, running length is just not that big of a deal. If it engages you, it’ll fly by and you’ll not give a hill of beans that your time investment was well beyond the preferred 90 minutes.
Conversely, I’m sure you’ve experienced those quickie films which run right at that magic mark of 90 minutes or so – and yet feel like the piece drags you kicking and screaming into a difficult third hour. It’s painful and it’s a complete waste of time – either the true 90 minutes or perhaps the perceived 3 hours.
Case in point, the sci-fi thriller Counter Clockwise.
Ethan (co-writer Michael Kopelow) and his partner Ceil (stunt-person Alice Rietveld) are working under the radar of major corporations and the government, as they develop a system of teleportation (a la Cronenberg’s The Fly). When there is an issue with teleporting adorable one-eyed dog Charlie, Ethan decides to test the technology on himself. Naturally, something goes wrong and the teleporter becomes a time machine. When Ethan returns – it’s six months later and plenty of other things have gone wrong, including the murders of his wife and sister. It becomes a race against time as Ethan attempts to solve the mystery, save his family, avoid a greedy corporate windbag and his goons and deal with the multiple versions of himself which are running around the streets of Los Angeles.
Admittedly, time travel movies (like Edge of Tomorrow and Looper) are tough to pull off. And while those two mentioned films are arguably pretty good, the same cannot be said for Counter Clockwise. It’s all over the place and frankly confusing.
Look, for indie films, folks wear multiple hats. And as an indie filmmaker, you hire your friends for positions in front of and behind the camera. But that isn’t always the best move. In this case, writer/director George Moise penned this script with brother Walter and their star Michael Kopelow.
Is there an argument for terrible films like this, that the filmmakers are burning the candle at both ends? That they’re trying to do too much? Sure, I guess. But then you have to take the criticism from audiences when your film fails on nearly every level. And take responsibility that keeping the production in the family (in this case casting and/or writing the lead for your partner) might keep you from potential greatness.
But before I tear this film to shreds (deservedly so), I’ll point out that some of the visual effects – most notably when the multiple Ethans are in scenes together – are effectively conceived and achieved.
Kopelow gives what is surely one of the most lackluster and boring performances by a lead film actor in – I don’t know – decades? I can’t really quantify that, so let’s just say it’s plain terrible. I know I’m preaching to the choir and goodness knows I’ve used this sermon before, but ACTING IS REACTING. And you could possibly forgive the “blah” line deliveries from Kopelow (all of them), if he simply reacted to the crazy, violent and emotional things happening to Ethan. And it’s not so much bad reactions, but the lack of any reactions. There’s a scene of Ethan seeing first-hand – violent acts against those close to him; and yet the complete lack of reaction (there’s a bit of brow furrowing) is just bizarre. It’s a poorly acted (and apparently poorly directed) performance.
The supporting cast is no better. The over-the-top screaming (including lots of very big gesturing) from the lead bad guy Roman (Frank Simms) and Ethan’s sister Fiona (Kerry Knuppe) are laughable and couldn’t be more insincere. The acting in this film is a mess – from everyone but Charlie the one-eyed dog (one of the only good things about this piece).
The editing and camerawork were generally pretty awful. A couple of things (an upside down flip of the camera as characters run by) was pretty nifty, but then it’s used again later on a car and immediately you’ll think, “ahhh, they shouldn’t have done it again”.
Overall, the camera moves far too much, and that becomes a distraction. There are also editing choices which didn’t work. But the big doozy which had me shaking my head, trying to understand the strange choice: Ethan is explaining to his sister about what is going on. But rather than simply cut the scene and allow the audience to assume that the explanation happened, the filmmakers chose to cover up the explanation/dialogue (in real time) by randomly adding the sound of a passing airplane (the characters are inside), thus drowning out the explanation. Huh? Just cut it!
I also had a problem with the foley work. There’s lots of running in the film and the overbearing heavy breathing and “clippity-clop” of running feet stood out. Was it the mix? Like the overdone camera movements, the foley work was distracting.
But the biggest sin of Counter Clockwise? It’s boring. There’s no suspense, no build and the action falls flat every time. It barely keeps your interest and none of the characters have any personality.
I can tell you with great certainty that if you happen to rent or buy this film, that you’ll have no access to a time machine (that I’m aware of) which will allow you to return to a time just before you plopped down your cash to check this title out.
So take my advice and don’t put yourself in that position in the first place. Unless you have a time machine, then do whatever you want.
And if so, could I borrow it? I’ll get in touch with my editor and ask that he send this screener to someone else so I don’t have to waste my time. My number’s in the book.
Counter Clockwise is now available on DVD/VOD.