In a beige office void somewhere in California, ace but amoral telemarketer Kasey Miller (Lamorne Morris) works the phones, talking people into buying expensive cable TV packages they don’t really need. He’s smooth and considered a superstar salesman around the office – but lately he has mislaid his mojo and one day young rival Barry (Woody McClain) beats him by a single sale on the leaderboard.

Determined to take back his crown, Kasey dawdles after quitting time even though he has a date with his ex-girlfriend Christine (Alisha Wainwright) that evening. Using a sneaky, internet-enabled sales technique to try to trick Asa (Jackie Earle Haley) into thinking he’s an old friend who just happens to be a telemarketer, Kasey thinks he’s made a sale – only to find out that Asa was not the hillbilly-accented fool he appeared to be on the phone and was on to him from the start. Then Asa shows up at Kasey’s workplace, armed and angry because of a personal tragedy that he believes was caused by a telemarketer’s phone call.

This comedy-drama appears initially to be a cheap bill of goods, but turns out to be more droll and insightful than it looks, and willing to go down some dark paths as it gets closer to the end. A debut feature for writer-director Khaled Ridgeway, it puts most of the pressure on its star to charm the audience while still being a sleazebag practised in the arts of the world’s most annoying profession. Luckily, Morris has the shtick down pat and sparks well with the fine supporting cast that includes not just Jackie Earle Haley but also another thrice-named Haley, former child star Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense), who, judging from this and the TV series What We Do in the Shadows, has turned into a wicked comic character actor.

Death of a Telemarketer is released on 28 February on digital platforms.



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