On the Count of Three

Valentino Watson’s (Jerrod Carmichael) just been told he’s been promoted to floor manager at the mulch factory, but he’s so depressed by the future he sees rolling out before him he tries to hang himself in a bathroom stall.  He then grasps an opportunity to spring his best, childhood friend Kevin (Christopher Abbott), who’d attempted suicide days earlier, from the psych ward, but surprisingly it is the more committed Kevin who balks at the immediacy of their suicide pact “On the Count of Three.”

Laura's Review: B-

Director/star Jerrod Carmichael makes his feature debut with a script from TV's 'Ramy’ writers Ari Katcher (also of 'The Carmichael Show') and Ryan Welch that has been described as a black comedy.  The only problem is that that comedy evaporates rather quickly, with Carmichael’s character left looking like an awfully irresponsible friend.  This is a buddy film where one character remains committed to a pact, despite calling for a one day timeout, while the other learns the solution he’s chosen in the heat of the moment just might not be the right one.  Carmichael and Abbott play off one another beautifully, but Abbott is this film’s scene stealer.

Kevin is clearly the more damaged individual, although both men’s problems and pasts are teased out during their ‘last day’ activities.  Kevin suggests Val mend fences with his dad (J.B. Smoove), who is happy to offer them burgers at Five Guys but gets abusive when Val demands the thousands he stole from him be repaid.  Just why he’s looking for cash on the same day he’s vowed to kill himself becomes apparent when he stops by to see the woman, Natasha (Tiffany Haddish), he lived with until he began ghosting her the week prior after having bought an engagement ring.  The lads enjoy a trip to Alamo Motorcross Park where their old boss Donny (Lavell Crawford) greets them with affection, but it is Kevin’s desire to kill his child psychologist, Dr. Brenner (Henry Winkler, a truly weird bit of casting), that not only sets their entire day in motion but dual paths to tragedy and redemption.

The film’s black humor comes early in such scenes as Val complaining that Kevin playingPapa Roach's 'Last Resort' is too on the nose, like playing Alanis Morissette after a breakup, Kevin declaring himself a hypocrite for all the anti-gun ‘stuff he posted’ and the cheery helpfulness of Dr. Brenner’s receptionist.  But once Val’s agenda changes, the script does little to put his focus on his friend’s despair, the film’s biggest failing.  There are hints here of such classics as “Mean Streets” and “Scarecrow,” but while Carmichael realizes a good sense of pacing and shepherds actors well, he doesn’t scale those heights.

Robin's Review: B-

Two BFFs, Val (Jarrod Carmichael) and Kevin (Christopher Abbott), stand in a secluded spot and point big guns at each other’s head. Then, the screen goes to black and a single shot is heard. Go back a few hours and we learn that they have made a suicide pact and are about to carry it out “On the Count of Three.”

Here is a case of the stars of this quirky little debut film, by Jarrod Carmichael, having more charisma than the script, making the best friend duo fun to watch. The shot we hear at the beginning leads to the meat of the story, by Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch, of the two trying to fulfill their bucket list before doing the deed,

The reason for the pact becomes clear as we meet Val who is being promoted in the garden supply business. The numbingly tedious job drives Val to an attempted, but interrupted, hanging. This makes him go to his BFF, who happens to be in a mental institute, break him out and, together, kill each other. The shot we hear triggers (pun intended) Kevin’s idea of making the day a special last fling.

The story becomes a number of things as Val and Kevin complete their last day with a plan for revenge, a test of manliness and the bonding of best buddies. The story tries to cover a lot of things, maybe too many things, before it wraps up in unexpected ways. Mostly though I like the relationship between the two friends and their adventures together.

Orion/UA Releasing opens "On the Count of Three" in theaters on 5/13/22.