THE STORY – Val (Jerrod Carmichael) has reached a place where he feels the only way out is to end things. But he considers himself a bit of a failure—his effectiveness lacking—so he figures he could use some help. As luck would have it, Val’s best friend, Kevin (Christopher Abbott), is recovering from a failed suicide attempt, so he seems like the perfect partner for executing this double suicide plan. But before they go, they have some unfinished business to attend to.
THE CAST – Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Abbott, Tiffany Haddish, J.B. Smoove, Lavell Crawford & Henry Winkler
THE TEAM – Jerrod Carmichael (Director), Ari Katcher & Ryan Welch (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 84 Minutes
By Matt Neglia
Jerrod Carmichael is taking a big step from his NBC sitcom “The Carmichael Show” to his directorial feature film debut “On The Count Of Three,” and he’s given himself a daunting task of having to tell a story written by Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch about a suicidal pact made between two life-long friends with a balance of dark humor and pathos. He mostly succeeds on the strength of the screenplay and the two performances delivered by him and an ever-evolving and continually impressing Christopher Abbott (is there anything he can’t do?!), despite a few first-time directorial hiccups here and there.
Val (Jerrod Carmichael) has learned that his best friend Kevin (Christopher Abbott) attempted to kill himself three days ago and is now in a hospital receiving care for his suicidal tendencies. Val himself is having suicidal thoughts as he’s unhappy with his current place in life and unprepared to be a future father with his current girlfriend (Tiffany Haddish). Val wants to end his life, so he comes up with an idea…both he and Kevin are going to kill themselves by the end of the day and they’re going to do it together. With a full day ahead of them before they decide to take their two newly acquired handguns and end it all, they choose to confront the people who have been the sources of their pain in their lives one last time. Since they’re both going to be dead before the end of the day, there’s nothing to lose, right? However, things don’t go exactly as planned. As Val tells Kevin at one point before they’re about to commit an irreversible act, “This isn’t a weekend at Coachella. You can’t just vibe it.”
Carmichael is putting a lot of faith in his audience with how he handles his debut’s themes. This film touches on triggering themes of suicide, sexual and physical abuse, and more. Luckily, he is significantly aided by an emotionally charged performance from Christopher Abbott. I’m starting to believe there is nothing Abbott cannot do as he bares his soul here, even achingly singing his heart out to Papa Roach’s classic rock song “Last Resort” (a song about suicide). He’s so loose and effortless in conveying Kevin’s pain that even though we don’t want him to kill himself, Abbott does such a tremendous job of convincing the audience why they and, in turn, Val, should let him do it. Kevin is more of the wild card between the two men. He is prone to fits of anger and acts selfishly because, to him, he’s tried everything he can do already to get better. This is it for him. There’s nothing left. On the other hand, Val is relaxed and mild in his demeanor, and Carmichael is able to communicate the character’s hurt on the inside externally without giving a big showy performance. The chemistry the two actors have with each other comes through on-screen, as you really get the sense that these two characters are friends in life and in death.
Despite featuring two characters who are not in control of their actions on the last day of both of their lives, Carmichael walks the finest of fine lines with the film’s tone. There are moments of dark humor that could indeed be aggravating and profoundly upsetting for some people and I’m sure audience reactions will be split over whether or not he successfully executes them. With the minor exception of a few directorial technical errors (some off framing, editing transitions, and Henry Winkler showing up wearing an unforgivable wig at one point that is distractingly bad), I think Carmichael’s approach and handling of the film’s subject matter shows tremendous potential for future projects. He manages to ground the drama, allowing us to emotionally connect with the film’s themes on suicide through the characters’ own perspectives on the topic. No matter what, this subject matter won’t be for everyone. We’re so conditioned to watching films that give us a hopeful message about living every day though as if it’s your last but very rarely do we see a film come along that takes this depressing of a route with such a message. However, for those who are willing to go on the ride, unbuckle your seatbelt, blast some Metallica and go wild.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – The endearing friendship between the two main characters is aided by two fantastic performances from Jerrod Carmichael & Christopher Abbott. The film’s balance between its dark humor & depressingly sad look at suicide.
THE OSCAR PROSPECTS – None