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Original Title:

South Korea 2011

Thriller, Drama

Heo Jong-ho

Jeong Jae-yeong
Jeon Do-yeon
Lee Kyeong-yeong
Oh Man-seok
Jeong Man-sik
Lee Min-yeong

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Story: Debt collector Tae Geon-ho (Jeong Jae-yeong) one day gets the news that he hasn't long to live anymore. He has liver cancer and only a donor could save his life now. He has ten days to find a matching donor and he already has an idea how to do that. When his son died his organs were donated. Therefore the recipients are also potential donors for him. After a few setbacks he finds the con artist Cha Ha-yeon (Jeon Do-yeon) who is currently in jail and is about to be set free in a few days. She is willing to donate part of her liver, if he would track down a powerful man, Jo Myeong-seok (Lee Kyeong-yeong), for her who disappeared with the money she cheated and sold her to the police. Even though Geon-ho keeps up his end of the deal Ha-yeon continuously tries to weasel out. Furthermore, there is also a Chinese gangster organisation who is chasing after the woman because she cheated them of a lot of money. But Geon-ho is running out of time...

Review: If you read the names of the two lead actors you can't help but to expect great cinema. After an exciting start everything still looks pretty good, too, but soon you realize that "Countdown" is solely solid genre stuff. A fact that has an especially bad taste to it because of the star cast. Also pretty questionable again is the scriptwriter's decision to choose the drama over the action towards the end. Thus, after all we don't get the tough thriller we were promised at the beginning and you even have to ask yourself what you actually get at the end. The answer: Just a typical Korean thriller with a lot of drama at the end. Something that seldomly enough works out and in "Countdown" it isn't any different.

Jeong Jae-yeong ("Castaway on the Moon", "Going by the Book") plays his debt collector with some rough edges - he surely isn't a nice fellow if you owe him money - otherwise he is very reserved and quiet. You never see him smile and of course there is also a reason for that which we get to know later on. The only thing that is for sure is that it concerns his deceased son. Jeon Do-yeon ("Secret Sunshine", "My Dear Enemy") oftentimes outshines him since she plays the con artist with a lot of energy and charm. Naturally, the chemistry between the two top actors is the best about the film and it is never jeopardized in favor of an unnecessary love story. Still, the impression left is that there would have been possible a lot more with those two.

The con artist Ha-yeon also has a little subplot involving her daughter played by singer Lee Min-yeong which shows once again how half-baked the script is. If it weren't for Jeon, who manages to give her relationship with her daughter more depth, the daughter would have been a completely irrelevant character, maybe with the exception of the plot twist demanding her role. Thanks to Jeon we at least feel that the daughter is significantly responsible for something like a conscience starting to emerge in Ha-yeon. However, the gangster story is especially shallow. There are two parties that have been conned by Ha-yeon or betrayed her and of course they both clash at the harbor when gangster boss Myeong-seok wants to escape with a boat. Not really what you would call inventive.

While it is outright fun to watch Geon-ho beating down some random thugs with his taser baton at the beginning the showdown looks just boring. More than anything else that's because of the characters who at times behave unusually passive and dim-witted. Moreover, the showdown turns out to be incredibly anticlimactic. "Countdown" isn't resolved like a thriller, which it was up until then, but suddenly sheds some light on Geon-ho's past with his son through the use of flashbacks and becomes a true drama. As is the case with other works you simply feel betrayed as a viewer by this kind of sudden turnaround. Apart from the good twist the rest is also just your usual stuff.

On a technical level there is nothing to criticize. The chasing scenes feature some interesting camera work, apart from that the movie has your typical gloomy thriller look. As already stated this stands in contrast to the drama which during the last third simply drives "Countdown" into the ground. Up until then the movie is pretty entertaining and at all times at a good pace. If it weren't for the screen presence of Jeon and Jeong the film would have deserved a worse rating. Still, any way you look at it the ending proves to be frustrating and the rest of the movie isn't really original enough to justify a recommendation. Two big names just don't make a good movie on their own.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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