I recall seeing the trailer for “Keeping Company” and thinking, “Pushy, competitive insurance salesmen meet a serial killer? That could be funny.”
And while there are some laughs, and one doesn’t get the sense that there were can’t-miss possibilities that the cast and “creatives” ignored, that initial hunch holds true with the finished film.
It “could be funny,” and certainly is amusing, here and there. But maybe they wrung all the laughs that were in it out of it, and this is all there ever was to it.
Ahmed Bharoocha and co-writer Devin Das co-star as long paired-up partners who hit would-be customers with a one-two punch of Caste Insurance pressure.
Never-pleased-his-dad Sonny (Das) is the fear-mongering, fast-talking “close the deal” guy. Orphaned never-knew-his-dad Noah (Bharoocha) is Mr. Empathy, telling enough of his sad personal story to make him relatable and the customer feel they’re meeting a kindred spirit, or guilted into buying from the guy who found out he was getting married and having a baby the very same day.
Their high-pressure/high-roller boss (Gillian Vigman) is all about her new boat and bullying the company accountant (Rex Lee) into making the write-off and balance of payments fit, even if that means they never pay out on a policy again. Putting customers on hold with a “wait time is twelve hours” message helps.
Yet we notice missing person signs around town, in Sonny’s dad’s (Bernard White) non-vegetarian restaurant, The Faithful Cow. The TV ads for the local DA, up for reelection, frankly admit to “chaos” on the streets that only he can clean up. In other words, don’t blame him. Re-elect him.
“ANGER is what runs the world!”
And we’ve caught a glimpse of this bespectacled creeper (Jacod Grodnik), cruising the bad side of town in his ancient Mercedes, grabbing people and polishing his meat grinder.
So that’s what we’re dealing with here. Somehow, super-competitive rageaholic Sonny and super sensitive Noah have to cross paths with the customer from Hell, and either convince him to sign on the dotted line, or at least make it out of his basement fiberboard dungeon alive.
Jokes include the serial killer’s “It’s not personal” reassurances, with both victims on brand in their responses.
Sonny — “Yeah, well it feels KINDA personal, a–h–e!”
Noah — “Everybody’s crazy for a reason!”
Noah is a little slow…at picking up on their peril. Sonny’s a little too focused on work to save them.
“This is worse than that time I dropped my phone in the toilet right before a flight,” vs. “I swear, if this lunatic gets me fired…”
But mean boss riffs and “We’re not friends, we’re just co-workers” partner tirades and the like make this short movie feel like its shown its entire hand early in the second act. And there’s still one whole act, with unsurprising surprises — twists that anybody could see coming — left.
Das and Bharoocha are funny enough as a pair, until they run out of amusing things to say and do as they scheme to make their escape.
So sometimes, a promising comedy pitch is all there is. Annoying salesmen, meat-grinding serial killer, who do we root for?
“Keeping Company” reminds us its what you do to flesh out and funny-up that pitch that matters more.
Rating: unrated, blood violence, profanity
Cast: Ahmed Bharoocha, Devin Das, Jacob Grodnik, Gillian Vigman, Bernad White, Andy Buckley and Suzanne Savoy
Credits: Directed by Josh Wallace, directed by Devin Das and Josh Wallace.
Running time: 1:22