On The Count Of Three

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

On The Count Of Three
"On the whole, it's episodic and uneven although both men have serious acting chops and there's a studied bleakness to the mood, as though the grey weather has seeped into its soul." | Photo: Marshall Adams

A suicide pact buddy comedy is going to be a hard sell at the best of times, least of all during a global pandemic, but here we are, watching Val (Jerrod Carmichael, who also directs) and Kevin (Christopher Abbott) reach the end of their tethers together, each pointing a gun at the other, until one of them suggests they make a day of it first.

Val had to spring Kevin from a mental health facility in the first place, but his own consideration of suicide comes as a shock to his friend - it's a reminder that a one-size fits all policy is as ill-suited to mental health as it is to so many other things, in a script by  Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch that often seems uncertain what to do with its weighter themes beyond play them for nihilism.

Their simple, if edgy, premise will see both men confronting issues in their lives as the day wears on. Kevin has been struggling with his mental health since he was young, while Val's despair seems of a newer vintage, a bleakly comic scene in his day job underscoring what he sees as the pointlessness of it all, although a subplot about his girlfriend Natasha (Tiffany Haddish, under-used) sits uneasily with all this.

Murder is on the menu for them, involving Henry Winkler in the oddest of roles, but it is a job that must be postponed until the evening, leading Kevin and Val to go on a vague smaller score-settling and nostalgia tour first. There's exhilaration -  of a dirt bike, target practice at a gun range - but the mood is never allowed to lift for long and the humour never really hits a stable groove. The needle drops, including Papa Roach's Last Resort, are well played for mordant laughs and JB Smoove makes his presence felt as Val's abusive father in one of the film's pivotal moments.

On the whole, it's episodic and uneven although both men have serious acting chops and there's a studied bleakness to the mood, as though the grey weather has seeped into its soul. Carmichael, in particular, seems almost on the verge of tears that seem to have been collecting for a lifetime throughout, offering an emotional touchstone even when the script - which somehow won an award at Sundance - is delivering a lot less.

Reviewed on: 05 Feb 2021
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Two guns. Two best friends. And a pact to end their lives when the day is done.

Director: Jerrod Carmichael

Writer: Ari Katcher, Ryan Welch

Starring: Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Abbott, Tiffany Haddish, JB Smoove, Lavell Crawford, Henry Winkler

Year: 2021

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

Sundance 2021

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