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On the Count of Three Is Contemplating Suicide


On the Count of Three features music from Papa Roach, but it does not endorse it. In the pitch-black comedy, the early aughts rock group is the favorite band of Kevin (Christopher Abbott), who is living his last day before he and his lifelong friend Val (Jerrod Carmichael) kill each other. With his dyed-blonde curls and soft machismo, Kevin appears to have designed his personality around nu-metal, so when he rocks out to “Last Resort,” which was censored by MTV and numerous radio stations when it premiered in 2000 for its explicit lyrics about suicide, it’s oddly affecting. “Last Resort” is a terrible song, but it gives him courage. Val isn’t having it. 

“You can’t listen to music that exactly describes the emotional thing you’re going through,” he chides Kevin. “I’m not listening to Papa Roach on the day I’m going to kill myself.”

It’s a film about suicide and gun violence that comfortably rides the line between comedy and tragedy, as well as exploitation and exploration. In his directorial debut, Carmichael, a veteran stand-up comic, proves himself adept at juggling tones. As Kevin and Val move through their run-down American town, settling old scores and atoning for prior sins, they bicker like an old married couple. Intense moments of emotional pain are punctuated with cathartic punchlines. It’s the same trick Carmichael pulls off in his recent comedy special Rothaniel, in which he reveals personal and family secrets in an intimate setting, and each joke is sweet relief from the unbearable tension of a wound that can’t be healed.

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