Kill Me Three Times, the latest film to star Simon Pegg, is billed as a “darkly comedic thriller,” but that description, like almost all of the characters in this film, doesn’t quite tell the truth. What it is is a circular, 1970s-flair “why dun it” (since we pretty much know who), with beautiful Western Australian scenery and not enough laugh-out-loud moments – unless you count the uncomfortable laughter that escapes when blood squirts all over.
Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, and the upcoming Mission: Impossible film) plays Charlie Wolfe, a second-rate hitman, telling would-be clients he “can be there in an hour.” He takes a job to follow Alice (Alice Braga), wife of local nutcase beach club owner Jack Taylor (Callan Mulvey). He quickly discovers that she’s having an affair with service station owner Dylan (Luke Hemsworth, older brother of Chris and Liam, the new Baldwin family), and isn’t surprised when Jack tells him he wants to have her killed. After all, Jack told his wife that he’d rather see her dead than sleep with another man, and tells Charlie that “she knew the consequences.”
But Charlie soon finds out that he’s not the only one trying to kill sweet, 9-lives Alice – her sister-in-law Lucy (Teresa Palmer) and Lucy’s gambling addict husband Nathan (Sullivan Stapleton) are attempting to do the same thing, in a complicated scheme involving dental records, a deep mining pit, and an insurance scam. The local law-enforcement/bookie Bruce (veteran actor Bryan Brown) seems to know all the tricks, and wants his cut of all of them.
Pegg is great as a lascivious, amoral hitman – giggling at postcards of naked women in a gas station, gleefully tracking his prey across the sand, not caring about much beyond the money his jobs bring him. Brown is intimidating, shaking down everyone he comes across, offering to “look the other way” when he quickly figures out Lucy and Nathan’s insurance scam. Psychopath husband Jack, with multiple scars across his face, is the classic abuser – quick to anger and violence, justifying his actions by saying that others had it coming. Nobody in this film is blameless, and nobody is likable. There is a little too much gratuitous blood spraying all over – we get it, he kills people, Lucy and Nathan aren’t nice people; but fountains just made the film uncomfortable.
The story is told in a circular fashion, and the bright colors and bouncy score gives the film a cool, 1970s vibe. It reminding me a little of The Hot Rock, a 1972 Rober Redford caper film. And you won’t figure out the why’s and wherefore’s until the film’s third act. Most of the why’s are resolved, but one question is never resolved – if Jack has hired Charlie to kill Alice, then why are Lucy and Nathan trying to do the same? Did she just happen to be convenient? Does Lucy think her brother will thank her for her unsolicited assistance? And there are some “huh?” twists, mostly toward the end.
Director Kriv Stenders saw the film as a “modern crime thriller conceived in the great tradition of classics such as Pulp Fiction and No Country For Old Men, packed full of double and triple crosses, sexy femme fatales, stolen loot, blackmail, betrayal, and murder.” But the action scenes aren’t big enough, the “femmes” plenty “fatale” but not quite sexy enough. There certainly is plenty of blackmail, betrayal and murder, which make the film fun, and it’s quick-moving, exactly an hour and a half, but needed to be bigger – in stunts, action scenes, and laughs – if it was to be compared to the other films mentioned.
It will be shown in just a handful of cities, but will be available on iTunes. Other than the scenery, which is beautiful, there’s nothing about this film that requires the big screen – it’s a good Saturday night, stay in and watch in your comfy clothes movie.
Kill Me Three Times is directed by Kriv Stenders (Red Dog), screenplay by James McFarland, score by Johnny Klimek. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. The film will be released on digital platforms (OnDemand and iTunes) this week (March 26) and extremely limited theatre release on April 10.
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