Some elevator pitches are better than others.
Take “Keeping Company’s” plot line. Two eager insurance salesmen think they have the perfect client until they discover he’s a serial killer.
Simple. Direct. And, since this is a horror comedy, brimming with potential.
The film nails that spirit, courtesy of two inspired comic leads. It’s a shame the story doesn’t know where to go mid-movie so it cranks the cynicism up to 11.
Sonny and Noah (co-writer Devin Das and Ahmed Bharoocha) take their insurance selling job very seriously, but not as seriously as Noah takes, well, everything.
Noah is as sincere as Ralphie from “The Simpsons” and just as naive.
Together, they push, prod and poke strangers to sign up for their terrible, no good plans. When their unctuous boss (Gillian Vigman, on point) demands they up their sales figures they double their efforts.
One fender bender later, they’re talking up a quiet man named Lucas (Jacob Grodnik) who lacks insurance but not a body count.
He’s a serial killer under the grip of his wicked grandma (Suzanne Savoy).
Director Josh Wallace (a “Funny or Die” alum) keeps the emphasis on the comedy, but the horrific elements eventually make their presence felt. His troupe handles the farcical elements with panache, keeping the mood light but crisp. The Das/Bharoocha combination is pitch perfect, and you’d like to see them paired up again in other ventures.
Except their comic chemistry can’t salvage a story that doesn’t know where to go.
The corporate satire is stinging but obvious. There’s little fresh material to be shared here, but that’s not vital given it’s an added layer to existing, scrumptious cake. What hurts “Keeping Company” is how it doubles down on the satire without better fleshing out the characters.
The villains are sharply defined but one-note in nature. Even giving the high-strung boss more depth would add to her villainy.
Instead, the film pushes the “Office Space” sentiment and erases a character way too soon.
Josh Wallace and Devin Das are the filmmakers behind #nbff2021 film KEEPING COMPANY, a horror-comedy that follows two brash insurance salesmen who find themselves trapped inside a serial killer’s basement. Read about @keepingcomovie in @moviemakermag. https://t.co/iZ2y2RPN1R
— NewportBeachFilmFest (@nbff) October 19, 2021
Grodnik gives the best dramatic performance, fulfilling the standard serial killer tics while letting us see the bruised and battered soul behind the mayhem. A smart sequence shows him opening up, albeit slightly, to Noah.
The moment suggests where the film might go next, but instead Wallace steers the story in a pitch black direction.
One intriguing subplot?
A local politician’s “tough on crime” shtick is played for solid laughs, but his integration into the larger story feels false.
“Keeping Company” does the horror-comedy formula proud, for a spell, but even the bounciest of moods can’t hide the dispiriting finale.
HiT or Miss: “Keeping Company” starts strong and boasts a spry comic tone, but the slick premise can’t sustain a 80-plus minute feature.