On the Count of Three review: Jerrod Carmichael and Christopher Abbott in ‘morose buddy comedy’

Christopher Abbott and Jerrod Carmichael lead ‘morose’ comedy On the Count of Three (Image: Marshall Adams/Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

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Comedian Jerrod Carmichael boasts a promising directorial debut with the edgy buddy comedy On the Count of Three.

Carmichael himself stars as the disillusioned Val who has hit a wall in his life and decides to make a suicide pact with his lifelong best friend Kevin, played by Christopher Abbott.

Kevin has been staying in a mental health facility due to his own suicidal tendencies, but now the pair are heading out on a reckless journey of their own.

Seeking to settle old scores and add some finality to their other relationships, events swiftly take some sharp turns that force some dark decisions to be made and the pair’s commitment to their quest to be called into question.

While Carmichael effectively plays the more understated, reactive and conflicted role as Val, Abbott offers a larger and magnetic movie star turn as the increasingly erratic and pained Kevin but never loses sight of his character’s nihilism.

Jerrod Carmichael, director and star of On the Count of Three
(Image: Joyce Kim/Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

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Continuing to prove himself a darling of independent cinema, Abbott is here distinctively styled with bleach-blond locks, sweatshirt and sweatpants and a boldly colourful jacket that evokes the style of Robert Pattinson’s memorable look in the thriller Good Time.

Together, the pair carry undeniable chemistry and the script creates two very believable friends who are clearly floundering but are holding on to each other in what they plan will be their final days.

The film also includes small but underdeveloped turns from Tiffany Haddish as Val’s estranged girlfriend, J.B. Smoove as his antagonistic father, Lavell Crawford as Val and Kev’s amusing old boss, and a small but pivotal role for Happy Days icon Henry Winkler.

Sadly, despite its sensitive judgment of tone with its humorous handling of very dark subject matter, On the Count of Three loses it way when it comes to its final act.

Christopher Abbott and Jerrod Carmichael star in On the Count of Three
(Image: Marshall Adams/Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

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As some grim revelations emerge they feel rather undercooked and the script rushes into some different places entirely with a broader use of violence and vague thriller elements.

Some of these work but the conflict between the two lead characters feels slightly manufactured, even if its final scenes do have something emotionally resonant and honest to say.

Ultimately, Carmichael shows real promise as a director and dramatic performer with a unique handling of tone especially, while Abbott continues to prove that his star deserves to be on the rise.

Verdict

On the Count of Three is a morose buddy comedy that, while uneven, boasts genuine chemistry between director-actor Jerrod Carmichael and charismatic co-star Christopher Abbott.

On the Count of Three premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2021 but does not currently have a UK release date.

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