Written and directed by Khaled Ridgeway, a smooth-talking telemarketer finds himself at the mercy of the man he tried to swindle. Starring: Lamorne Morris, Jackie Earle Haley, Haley Joel Osment, Alisha Wainwright, Woody McClain, Matt McGorry, Gwen Gottlieb and Gil Ozeri.
Lamorne Morris is a relentlessly fun guy to watch, the only downfall is that we often see very similar performances from him, getting slightly pigeonholed but that doesn’t take away from his comedic talent. In Death of a Telemarketer he again shows off his talent for the melodramatic, fast-talking, emphatic and charming, Kasey may be a ruthless salesman but there’s a good heart hiding beneath the shark skin. He’s also a huge part of the energy the film has, he’s the central piece holding things together. Jackie Earle Haley similarly doesn’t give us too many surprises in this performance versus his existing career but it works well, particularly when combined with a hectic, energetic performance by Haley Joel Osment which is a definite highlight. However, there are a couple of characters which don’t get too much to chew on here, played by Alisha Wainwright and Matt McGorry, both are sincere assets to the film and it’s a shame not to see more from them.
There’s one niggling problem with this story, while the style and tone do feel modern, the concept itself feels somewhat outdated. Telemarketers do still exist sure, but it’s not particularly a concern for most people, and would feel more well placed in a story ten to twenty years ago. It has a high energy to begin with but that doesn’t last long and it struggles to keep things going in its second half. It is funny and it’s a great combination of characters but gradually it starts to feel quite one-noted and there isn’t enough surprise or unexpected additions to keep you drawn in till the end.
A similar comment could be made of the direction, it doesn’t inject the missing energy or atmosphere which the story calls for. It plays things fairly safe, and with it being for the most part set in an office with your typical cubicles, there isn’t a lot of colour, texture or individuality to give the aesthetic more personality. Part of that is the missing tension, risk or suspense, the direction doesn’t feed into the story to enhance things and build up to the finale. It all stays on a fairly similar level, there’s no real ups and downs, despite some action-style moments, it’s not making the most of its more lively scenes.
Death of a Telemarketer is sweet and funny but sadly forgettable. Lamorne Morris, Haley Joel Osment and Alisha Wainwright provide charm and entertainment but they can’t carry the film when the style is playing it too safe. The writing and direction don’t lean into the thrill or tense elements to the story, missing out on something more absorbing. It’s a solid attempt for a feature debut from Khaled Ridgeway but needed to up the stakes or the comedy to make a bigger impression.