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On the Count of Three (Sundance review)

On the Count of Three (Sundance review)
5 10

PLOT: Two best friends (Jerrod Carmichael & Christopher Abbott) make a pact to end their lives, but first they decide to spend their last day tying up loose ends and settling a couple of scores.

REVIEW: Suicide is a tough subject to make a movie about, much less an admittedly dark comedy. It's the directorial debut of Jerrod Carmichael, coming off of his acclaimed series, The Carmichael Show, and he certainly didn't choose aneasy topic for his first feature. The script, by Ari Katcher & Ryan Welch, took home the Waldo Salt screenwriting award at this year's Sundance, and it's a provocative, entertaining film that's nonetheless hampered by an unwieldy third act that ends the film on a sour note.

on the count of three review

The problem with On the Count of Three is that it wants you to think that it's propelling towards a seemingly inevitable climax, with the two agreeing to shoot each other by the end of the day, but only one of the characters actually seems suicidal. That would be Christopher Abbott's Kevin, who's been in and out of institutions his whole life and gives off the impression of truly being at the end of his rope. Abbott is an intense, ferocious actor who sells the premise. Not so for Carmichael's Val, who comes off as confused more than anything. You never really get the notion that he's going to go through with it, but the film starts backing him into a corner as the two get into a world of trouble on what's supposed to be their last day.

Their big mission for the day is that they're going to kill the psychiatrist who molested Kevin as a child, with him played by Henry Winkler in a role that's way, way, way against type. I never bought that the smart Val would ever go down the road, and even the suicide pact where they plan to shoot each other feels wildly impractical, again making me think that the whole premise is more than a little half-baked.

That said, you go along with it for the most part thanks to the performances. Even if I didn't believe his character was suicidal, Carmichael is a terrific actor. Some of his big dramatic moments really work, such as his confrontations with his abusive dad (played by a terrific J.B. Smoove), and ex (Tiffany Haddish in a tiny part). Abbott, with his wiry intensity, is more convincing as a guy on the edge, but as the film goes on Val starts to feel a bit like Kevin's victim, culminating in a scene where he uses a racial slur, a cruel moment that didn't strike me as the way this life-long best pal would talk to his buddy, no matter how dire their straits.

It all adds up to a climax that's written off as no big deal but is shattering to some degree, even if it feels like the film doesn't quite realize it. Overall, it's an unsteady but still worthwhile and entertaining debut for Carmichael, who I think does have a great career in front of him as both a director and an actor.

Source: JoBlo.com

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