Paul McGann as Rob in Downtime (1997)

In Need of a Lift

I don't remember "Downtime" being released but it seems part of the pitch was that it was a British version of "Die Hard". It isn't, it may see a couple of people scrabbling around in a lift shaft but it gets nowhere near being a British "Die Hard". In fact I'm not quite sure what "Downtime" is because it has romance, action, horror, social commentary and some humour going on but not much of a storyline. It almost feels like someone came up with an idea for a few high impact scenes, and then tried to create a storyline around them with an end result of a movie which feels messy.

On a rainy Friday night former cop Rob (Paul McGann - Alien 3) is called out to help talk a suicidal woman down from the ledge of a council tower block. The woman is Chrissy (Susan Lynch - Waking Ned) and although she doesn't want to die she has no reason to live with the block terrorized by a group of young thugs lead by the sadistic Jacko (Stephen Graham). But having been pivotal in talking Chrissy down Rob can't get her out of his head and when he returns the next day to try and ask her out for a date they end up stuck in a lift together as the yobs cause a fire in the lifts engine room.

Susan Lynch as Chrissy in Downtime (1997)

It doesn't take you long to realise that "Downtime" is a movie built on a few scene ideas and characters rather than a storyline. I say this because the opening scene which sees Chrissy saved when she slips is so wrong in so many ways that all you can imagine is that either the writer or director thought the scene would wow audiences rather than have them laughing in disbelief. Even before we get the cliche moment of heroism we get the quirky as we meet Rob, not your normal sort of person who talks down jumpers as he waffles on about the most random of things. What is worth knowing is that the year before "Downtime" came out Paul McGann has starred as the Doctor in the "Doctor Who" TV movie and his character Rob has that sort of quirky randomness you expect in "Doctor Who".

Anyway this semi action packed opening really is just the intro to Rob ending up asking Chrissy out for a date and ending trapped in a lift with her and her son thanks to the yobs trashing the engine room. Now let's see, people stuck in a lift which is erratically jumping up and down and we have an open door to try and get through, it may not end in a typical horror movie style but what is to come is telegraphed. And that is the thing because as we watch Rob, Chrissy and her son Jake try to escape the lift and the lift shaft everything is too telegraphed. Not only that, considering this is meant to be action like "Die Hard" with scrabbling around in a dirty lift it doesn't have that much action. What is worse is that the focus of the movie is Rob and Chrissy and the lift shaft yet we then get a totally random series of scenes at the end which are completely out of place.

The annoying thing is that whilst there is a lot wrong with "Downtime" the performances from Paul McGann as Rob and Susan Lynch as Chrissy are entertaining. Their characters may be both cliche and inconsistent but with McGann delivering amusing quirkiness and Lynch delivering fiery temper they do keep your attention. It's such a shame that the rest of the movie ends up a mess because in amongst all that is wrong there are things which are good, it just doesn't come together.

What this all boils down to is "Downtime" doesn't work and is a bit of a mess which seems to be trying to give us some "Die Hard" style action mixed with horror, quirky humour and social commentary. The annoying thing is that there are certain things which are good about it but because so much is wrong it ends up being amusing for being wrong rather than for being good.