Jerrod Carmichael, a name most people probably didn’t know before his outstanding comedy special that dropped earlier this year, Rothaniel (which if you haven’t seen stop reading right now, go watch Rothaniel and then come back and finish reading this, you’ll thank me later). I first saw On The Count of Three in 2021 at the digital Sundance Film Festival, and until it was released on VOD and theatrically today I haven’t had a chance to revisit the film, however, 1.5 years later I am still thinking about the film and how much it resonated and stuck with me, and it is one of those films that you will never shake, it will sit with you and linger and become a part of your soul for the rest of time. On The Count of Three is a near perfect film, there is no other way to describe it, it shakes you to your core and you can never, ever, forget about what you watched.
On The Count of Three focuses on two friends, Val (Jerrod Carmichael) and Kevin (Christopher Abbott), and they plan on killing themselves, by shooting each other simultaneously in the head. This is all sparked by the fact that Kevin is currently on a psychiatric hold as he threatened to kill himself and cannot live with the weight on his shoulders and Val comes to visit him and conjure a plan to break him out. Upon being free, they agree unanimously to have one final day to right wrongs, do whatever they want, and be at figurative piece before ending their lives. Of course, this does not go to plan entirely and a series of events spiral out of control leading into a heated finale.
It is important to distinguish that the script penned by Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch is incredibly triggering and may be dangerous for anyone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts or tendencies, so please tread with caution and seek help if you have those feelings. However, their script is nothing short of brilliant. It is so tightly packed together that it feels like the Safdie brothers made a film under a pseudonym. 86 minutes of pure, unadulterated chaos that demands your attention and never lets go of the gas pedal. On The Count of Three is simply a masterpiece that has one of the most well executed scripts and stories to grace a screen, there is a reason why it won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: US Dramatic prize at Sundance in 2021.
Moreover, it is hard not to talk about the direction from Jerrod Carmichael here. The way this film is directed is so masterfully done; it really is shocking that this is his first time directing a feature. There are no missteps, no stones unturned, nothing missing from the final impact that On The Count of Three delivers. This feels like a seasoned director at the helm, and not someone who’s in their early thirties directing.
There are very few films, in my opinion at least, that have such strong connections between leads and deliver such impactful performances that it would be absolutely astonishingly weird and out of place to see anyone else do these performances or characters. Such as John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction, Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in Fight club, the list goes on and on, however, Christopher Abbott and Jerrod Carmichael can be added to that list, because to see any two other people try and recreate or capture the intensity, madness, and pure heart that these two created together would be nothing short of a miracle. They are the movie, they make the audience believe that what they’re going through is real, there is no way to deny their emotions, their decisions, any of it. They are the characters they are playing, and the performances grabs you and makes you understand that. With characters who are so tragically written to deliver such emotional and painstakingly beautiful performances the film cannot be denied. On The Count of Three grabs you right out of the gate, never lets you go, and then it just sticks with you until the end of time.