Straight Outta Countdown
Cert: 15 / 150 mins / Dir. Armand Jammot / Trailer
As the Summer ebbs to a close, the studios are starting to put out more niche fare, and Film 4's new biographical drama is leading the pack. A brutal exposé of the afternoon gameshow scene, Straight Outta Countdown covers the period from 1981 when a successful highbrow pub-quiz in the working men's clubs of Yorkshire was adapted for TV on a fledgling channel, through host Richard Whiteley's untimely death in a vicious drive-by shooting, and to ShitHouse Vorderman's subsequent trial, incarceration and comeback as TV-ad loan-shark and bio-narcotics queen.
Although the screenplay skips through the major events of its timeline, this is a film which doesn't pull any punches and director (also credited with creating the original format) Armand Jammot gets full value for money from his performers. The casting of four different actresses to play Carol Vorderman in the phases of her career is a nice touch (with the Marion Cotillard interpretation being notably stronger than the Julie Walters one). Tom Selleck is a natural for the Des Lynam era of the show, but Jammot's controversial choice of Laurence Fishburne to portray Richard Whiteley proves to be the film's greatest success; the lightness of touch and concealed threat that were the longtime host's trademark moves being brought effortlessly to the screen by the Matrix alumnus.
Of course, many will be watching the film for its cutting-edge soundtrack of Max Bygraves, Daniel O'Donnell and other proponents of the 1980s Tea-Time scene, and while they won't be disappointed, they'll no doubt be thrown off-track by the use of DMob's 'We Call It Acieed' during one of the training-montages. In any other film these would be a tired cliché, but with Straight Outta Countdown, they're an intriguing necessity.
Clocking in with a 15 Certificate, the script's foul language isn't offensive as such, but it certainly raises a few eyebrows (co-presenter Rachel Riley didn't earn the nickname 'C-Bomb' for her famous vitamin overdose). All of this takes place 'off-air', naturally, as does most of the film's narrative drive, with many of the most pivotal rounds of Countdown being shown only as snippets watched back by a furiously inebriated Vorderman in her underground maths-dungeon.
Never an easy watch but always an invigorating one, this film finally sets the record straight on the afternoon-gameshow-wars of the late 20th century.
Sure, you can have one from the bottom, but Straight Outta Countdown is all from the top…
If you can, do.
I believe Channel 4 are going to serialise it over the first week of November?
In every way, yes.
I certainly bloody will.
There is, and it's magnificent.
The film's casting of Ian 'Emperor Palpatine' McDiarmid as Countdown's 2007 presenter Des O'Connor is nothing less than inspired.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Still confused? It's an extended bad pun on this.
• Yep, all of that for one weak joke which has already been bandwaggoned to death by everyone else.
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