“On the Count of Three” Review: Friends Behave Badly

Both Val and Kevin want to die. They have guns to each other’s temples. They will both pull the trigger (insert movie title here), and together they will end each other’s suffering on this Earth. One. Two…

Pause. Kevin drops Val’s gun. Maybe now is not quite the time. How about one more day to party, settle old scores, and so deal with the business of death?

It’s the setup of “On the Count of Three,” Jerrod Carmichael’s mixed bag of a directorial debut, which features a pair of committed performances but less clout than one might hope for in a movie. also proudly dark and brutal. tale of edges.

Carmichael plays Val, who goes to visit her best friend Kevin (Christopher Abbott) at the mental health facility where he is currently being held, after he attempted suicide days prior. Val – fresh off a suicide attempt – brings it out, and it’s the first sign these friends are living by a code of their own making, not necessarily one that’s in either of their best interests. It won’t be the last.

Val and Kevin’s friendship is at the forefront of “On the Count of Three,” and Carmichael captures moments of exuberance: the pals’ last lap at the local motocross track where they once worked, the exhilaration that they smell guns at a shooting range. They have always been there for each other and their chemistry is real. “On the Count of Three” is more than a buddy movie, it’s a love story.

Their path through the day – which includes several crimes along the way – is a different story. Val and Kevin both suffer from deep-seated mental health issues, which the film addresses, and rather carefully corrects by identifying the targets of their angst (for Val it’s his father, for Kevin it’s a creepy doctor who molested him as a child). But coping is out of the question for these two, and death is the way to go. It seems to have been agreed upon long before the public resumed with them.

Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch’s screenplay deals with the couple’s suicide pact and coming to terms with death in a candid and factual way that is rarely seen in American films. When it does, it’s usually used as a sort of bait and switch, which isn’t the case here – well, not entirely, at least.

“On the Count of Three” is a thorny story, and Carmichael – who shoots on grainy-looking 35mm film – embraces its thorniness, using it as a badge of honor. Apart from his musical landmarks (hello, Papa Roach), he exists outside of time; it could take place in the 90s or even the 70s. Even still, it’s not an easy story to understand; you can hug him all you want, but he won’t hug you back. It’s dark to nothingness.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

‘On the Count of Three’

NOTE: C+

Rated R: for violence, suicide, pervasive language and some sexual references

Duration: 83 minutes

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