‘Kill Me Three Times’ Should’ve Stopped the First Time

by David Allegre on May 8, 2015

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Down]

Kill Me Three Times, the new film from Australian director Kriv Stenders based on a screenplay by first timer James MacFarland, can’t seem to make up its mind about what kind of movie it wants to be. The film seems to announce its intentions in its opening scene, a comic scene in which cartoonish hitman Charlie Wolfe (Simon Pegg), complete with an all black outfit and handlebar mustache, finishes off his latest victim. However, Wolfe may as well hail from a different planet than the rest of the cast, who seem to be more comfortable in conventional genre roles.

Indeed, Wolfe spends the first half of the movie passively observing the web of characters we meet on the Australian coast. There’s Jack (Callan Mulvey), a local hotel owner in a less than trusting relationship with his wife Alice (Alice Braga). Alice soon finds herself at the mercy of both her husband and her brother-in-law Nathan (Sullivan Stapleton), who hatches a murderous plot to escape a gambling debt. Nathan’s wife Lucy (Teresa Palmer), who’s also the sister of Jack, is in on the plot as well but might have something else up her sleeve. There’s also hunky good guy Dylan (Luke Hemsworth) who’s having an affair with Alice, and local cop Bruce (Bryan Brown), who moonlights as a particularly nasty collector for the local loan shark. Once viewers have taken about 45 minutes to make heads or tails of the nuts and bolts of the scenario, Charlie Wolfe finally steps in to further complicate the situation.

Complex plotlines and deceptive motivations have always been staples in mystery thrillers films like this, but Kill Me Three Times‘ plot never becomes compelling beyond the simple reveal of information. For instance, much of the first half of the film is told in a non-linear fashion, and we’ll see characters talk on the phone and move on to the next scene, only to learn later that there’s been a day’s worth of important plot development left out. This results in a mystery story in which plot developments seem at best confusing and at worst cheap. It’s a sort of storytelling one might call Gotcha! Filmmaking, because you can imagine someone behind the scenes yelling “Gotcha!” when it’s revealed that a character escaped a would-be fatal car crash off a cliff which we were shown 20 minutes earlier.

Despite the banality of the plot, the greatest failure of Kill Me Three Times is its failure to deliver either as a neo-noir thriller or a black comedy. The film possesses all the weight and lukewarm comedy of an episode of Burn Notice, but with a dash of unearned sadistic violence. The bright, coastal color palette of the film is another baffling aspect of the film. Rather than provide some sort of contrast to the dark nature of the characters, the setting merely serves to alleviate whatever tension the plot might have provided. Throughout the film we see glamorous establishing shots of the Australian coastline or beach villas that seem more at home in an episode of CSI: Miami.

The Pegg character is central to film’s failing. He’s quick to dole out smirky quips, which are rarely more witty than “F#%& me!” There’s almost a pleasure to the cringe Pegg elicits when he spouts out Charlie Wolfe’s unoriginal asides. It’s a thankless role for Pegg, who’s proven his mettle as a comic actor time and time again.

All in all there’s not much to see here. If you’re looking for some sort of spoof of small town mystery action thrillers, which the marketing to Kill Me Three Times indicates might have been the intent here, look no further than Pegg’s own Hot Fuzz, which possesses all the clarity and humor that Kill Me Three Times lacks.

David Allegre is a film student currently studying at the University of Kansas and living in Lawrence, KS.

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