Sundance: On The Count of Three

Work sucks. Home sucks. Life sucks. Val (Jerrod Carmichael) springs his best friend Kevin (Christopher Abbott) from the psychiatric facility where he’s being held so they can commit suicide together. Kevin attempts it regularly, which is why he’s currently being held, and Val has recently begun to think that this is the only logical solution. Two best buds, two guns, one parking lot, and one suicide pact. But at the last minute, Kevin doesn’t shoot his best friend in the head, which admittedly is a little hypocritical since he’s usually pretty cavalier about suicide. But Kevin’s recent brush with death and even more recent suicide pact has him thinking that one last day might be in order before they go.

Val’s idea of ‘one last day’ involves things like riding dirt bikes and drinking beers, while Kevin’s is a little more revenge-based, so the actual trajectory is a mix of both, with stops to see Val’s pregnant girlfriend (Tiffany Haddish), Val’s deadbeat dad (J.B. Smoove), and the doctor who messed up Kevin as a kid (Henry Winkler). Kevin thinks this is an opportune time to commit some murder – he can save future kids from the sick doctor, and avoid paying any consequences. Val isn’t exactly on board, so there’s some negotiating to do here, but that’s the unique and oddly wonderful thing about this film. In between all this tragedy and trauma is a very strong friendship between these two men. They’ve been there for each other and continue to be on their last day, and will each pull the trigger on the other when the day is over. Their bond is surprisingly sweet and at times even intimate. It’s not exactly what you might expect from a couple of guys plotting suicide in a parking lot.

Jerrod Carmichael is a first time director yet seems to have a natural inclination for strutting the thin curvature of such a dark comedy. On The Count of Three is edgy just by virtue of its premise but at its heart are some pretty universal themes of despair and hopelessness. The film doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles but it does have the balls to take on this heaviest of topics and Carmichael’s skill is sharp enough to pull it off in a way that is completely disarming. How can this little film fill you with heartbreak but leave you with hope? It isn’t as bleak as it sounds, for one – the camaraderie here is infectious, and the pairing of Abbott and Carmichael is inspired. The characters are wounded and neurotic but they balance each other out and have some moments of truly beautiful connection that make you root for them even as they plan for their own demise.

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