Countdown (2012, Thailand) [NYAFF 2013]

CountdownWritten and directed by Nattawut Poonpiriya, Countdown follows three young adults from Thailand who are living in New York City. Most of the film takes place in the apartment that the three share and the events take place on New Year’s Eve.

Jack (Pachara Chirathivat) has been living in New York for three years, living off of his parents’ money and telling them he’s a student at NYU. His girlfriend Bee (Jarinporn Joonkiat) has just arrived from Thailand–and she’s running from something. Jack’s roommate Pam (Pattarasaya Kreuasuwansri) has been spending all of her mother’s money on new clothes to keep her boyfriend Fabio (Lorenzo de Stefano) from dumping her, but it doesn’t work.  The friends are looking to get high, but Jack’s neighbor and dealer has quit the drug business and is returning to Thailand. Jack tries to convince his dealer to give Jack the name of his contact, but the dealer refuses. Lucky for Jack, he finds the torn remains of the dealer’s connection while going through his garbage.Countdown3

Jack, Bee and Pam put the card back together but they discover one number–the last number–is missing. They decide to try their luck and pick a number. Jesus (David Asavanond) answers and agrees to bring the friends some pot. Jesus stays at the apartment and he smokes pot with Jack and Pam (Bee doesn’t smoke).  After getting very high, Jesus begins acting weird and Bee wants him to take the money they owe him for the drugs and leave. Jesus doesn’t leave and things begin to spiral out of control for the three friends.

Countdown is an interesting film–it’s a horror film with some exploitation elements, but it has a moral message. All three of the friends–Jack, Bee and Pam–are guilty of bad behavior; Jesus shows the viewer and the friends that they are also guilty of violating the Five Precepts of Buddhism.  Jesus, while twisted and sadistic, becomes an avenging angel, of sorts. Jack and Pam are clearly selfish and oblivious to the consequences of their actions, but Bee is clearly haunted by what she is running from and probably undergoes the most anguish as well as the biggest transformation of the main characters.Countdown2

Overall the film is a strong one. The script is tight and, although the beginning is a little slow, once the story hits its stride, it keeps an unyielding pace. The violence is plentiful and suitably disturbing and the cast works well together. I disliked Jack and Pam, because they were so wrapped up in themselves and their spoiled rich-kid attitudes; however, I liked Bee and was sympathetic towards her. I also thoroughly enjoyed Jesus, as he was the most interesting of the main characters and seemed to move effortlessly between psychotic and almost rational. David Asavanond gives a frenetic and powerful performance as the dangerous and homicidal dealer Jesus and is truly the star of Countdown. The end has an unexpected happy ending, but somehow it works really well to deliver the moral message hidden in a sleek and savage film.

Countdown is screening at the Walter Reade Theater on Wednesday, July 3rd at 10:20p as part of this year’s New York Asian Film Festival.  For more information and tickets, go here.