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Movie Review: 'On the Count of Three' is a Terrific Directorial Debut for Jerrod Carmichael

by Sean Patrick 2 months ago in movie
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A first time director makes a remarkable debut with the dark comedy On the Count of Three

Mental health experts will tell you that suicidal people will seem happier right before they take their life. It doesn’t always happen that way, but in most cases euphoria sets in once death is certain. The dark dramatic comedy, On the Count of Three, from star and director Jerrod Carmichael, pictures suicide from a different perspective. On the Count of Three is a suicide comedy, a dark comedy, of course, and it captures the kind of feelings mental health experts see in suicidal patients. 

On the Count of Three follows lifelong friends Val (Jerrod Carmichael) and Kevin (Michael Abbott) on their last day on Earth. Val and Kevin have made a suicide pact. The two plan to kill each other after they’ve spent the day settling affairs and taking revenge on one man in particular whom they blame for their pain. Both men were products of abuse at the hands of a trusted professional. The experience shaped the rest of their lives. Val sulked into a life of routine menial work. Kevin drifted toward crime.

Two friends journey toward fate

Each man begins this journey in a different place and over the course of the story, they begin to trade places. One character begins the story with a determination to kill himself. The other starts the day not thinking of suicide but coming around to the idea after its pitched to him. The story of On the Count of Three turns on the slight shifts in motivation from one of them to the other. Director Jerrod Carmichael designs incidents that slowly reveal these men as this strange day unfolds.

The subtlety of this shift in narrative is brilliant. It occurs even as the rest of the movie grows more chaotic. It’s as if Carmichael were showing us one story in the foreground while the real story was emerging in the margins. It’s the kind of clever storytelling that you’d expect from a far more experienced director. One the Count of Three is Carmichael’s first directorial effort and he shows remarkable aptitude.

An incredible supporting cast

A supporting cast full of heavyweights aids Carmichael greatly in On the Count of Three. Tiffany Haddish, Henry Winkler, and J.B Smoove each have a small role to play and they are brilliantly used. Carmichael and Michael Abbott meanwhile have tremendous chemistry playing lifelong friends. The two bicker and banter and their history together is well implied in each interaction. You can easily sense how they bonded as children and what drives their slowly shifting stories here is the culmination of two lifetimes intertwined. 

The script by Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch smartly chooses incidents that keep the story moving. The first time Val and Kevin attempt suicide outside of a strip has a comic tension that comes from the setting and the two men pointing guns at each other. It comes early in the movie so we know neither is going to die here but that doesn’t relieve the comic tension, it heightens it. The two negotiating plans for a last day before their dual suicides has the same darkly comic edge and that tone is consistent throughout On the Count of Three

So does everyone die?

Carmichael pulls no punches in the ending of One the Count of Three. Does that mean everyone is dead by the end? No, it means that the actions that unfold in On the Count of Three have consequences that Carmichael and his creative team understand and embrace. While we look for a way out and hope for these characters, the movie holds no such pretension toward giving audiences what we want. 

On the Count of Three is a terrific directorial debut for Jerrod Carmichael, a young filmmaker with a very bright future. The film opened in limited theatrical release on May 13th, 2022. The film is also available on streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Google Play. I highly recommend it. 


About the author

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast. I am a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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