The worst thing a movie can do is leave you unmoved. If you’re not going to be good, you can at least be memorable. For the majority of its runtime, George Moïse’s directorial debut Counter Clockwise is little else than a forgettable thriller with a sci-fi twist. That is until the last five or so minutes in which the film becomes quite memorable for reasons that are likely to make it much harder for Moïse to direct another film.
Moïse had his whole life to make his first film and he seems to have been eager to work in damn near every shot he’d thought up into it as a result. A camera attached to the front of a car zooms down an alley, a hitman dances in near silhouette within his vehicle with lights flashing past him outside, the camera lingers on and zooms into a shard of green glass… The film is not poorly put-together as many of Moïse’s shots are beautiful, allowing the film to look more expensive than it possibly could have been. However, most of these shots don’t do much of anything when it comes to communicating character or theme to the viewer. They simply read as a cool collection of frames that the director is very proud of, and it creates an aesthetic distance that leaves the film struggling to engage the viewer as it doesn’t seem to find its own plot or characters all that compelling.
This is a movie about a man who accidentally travels into the near future after creating a time machine and discovering that his life has completely disintegrated, then deciding he must go back in time to try and figure out if he can prevent the tragedy that created this future from occurring. This man, played by Michael Kopelow (who also served as co-writer), is a cipher who seldom indicates his thoughts or feelings with words or expressions outside of some fairly standard scenes that involve him being tied up and the actor seeing how far he can widen his eyes. It’s a performance that is so reserved that it’s almost non-existent, heavily contrasting most of the Brian Michael Bendis-esque supporting characters. This dissonance between the performances of the lead and the supporting characters ostensibly exists to create a surreal tone that places the viewer in the lead’s mindset but merely adds confusion.
Then, at some point during the movie, characters and/or actors with physical disabilities are injected into the film in order to add to the surreal tone. They are meant to be gawked at for their perplexing presence as people with disabilities and that’s a ghoulish, dehumanizing trick filmmakers should stop employing immediately.
The plot on the whole has a workmanlike assembly cobbled together by Moïse and Kopelow from a story by the former’s brother George; a time travel story involving a murder mystery linked to a conspiracy seemingly designed solely for Moïse to indicate his ability to juggle plotlines and clearly develop a potentially confusing timeline. It is somewhat anti-climactic when the device that instigated the entire plot it revealed, but it is clever in how it plays off what the viewer knows and assumes other characters must know as well even if it remains ultimately unsatisfying.
But in the last five minutes it’s as if Moïse suddenly realized he made it to the very end of his first film without including the requisite rape that every male filmmaker seems required to by law to put in their first outing. The events are disgusting and they genuinely left me as a viewer in disbelief that what I saw was really occurring. The state of the female characters in this film was a shambles beforehand just like it was with the male characters, so their portrayal didn’t seem particularly egregious until the ending set in. Then it snaps into place that this is a film where none of the women have agency, the male lead is motivated by the death of a woman, and the two most prominent female characters are violently dispensed with mere moments apart. The camera lingers on one of them twitching. And the camera sure lingers on the rape of the corpse that follows. It’s disgusting and speaks very poorly of the men who felt the need to include this rape as plot device in their boring little time travel movie.
This movie isn’t worth your time. It doesn’t respect women or people with disabilities and, even if it did, it’s not ever particularly engaging outside of those huge problems either.
If you choose to ignore Mark’s warning and want to watch the film anyway, it comes out on VOD on December 13th and you can get preorder it now via Artsploitation.