Movie Review: “Kill Me Three Times”

Simon Pegg, Teresa Palmer, Sullivan Stapleton, Alice Braga, Callan Mulvey, Luke Hemsworth, Bryan Brown
Kriv Stenders

“Kill Me Three Times” is the sort of Quentin Tarantino poser film that peaked in the early ‘00s, when Blockbuster was still the king of home video. That’s how dated director Kriv Stenders’ latest movie feels, and unlike Tarantino’s oeuvre (as well as the really good imitators, like Guy Ritchie’s “Lock, Stock” and “Snatch”), it lacks the colorful dialogue or characters to make up for its derivative story. Though Stenders deserves some credit for assembling such a game cast, the film never quite comes together. “Kill Me Three Times” wants to be both a dark comedy and a stylish crime thriller, but the contrasting tones only end up stifling one another, underlining just how few genuine laughs and thrills that it has to offer.

Set in a sun-drenched coastal town of Australia, the movie stars Simon Pegg as Charlie Wolfe, a professional hitman who’s been hired to follow a woman named Alice (Alice Braga) when her abusive husband (Callan Mulvey) suspects her of having an affair with the local mechanic (Luke Hemsworth). After Charlie delivers proof of Alice’s adultery and is asked to finish the job by killing her, Charlie learns that he may not have to get his hands dirty at all when he stumbles upon a plot by his client’s sister (Teresa Palmer) and her meek dentist husband (Sullivan Stapleton) to settle a large gambling debt by killing Alice as part of an elaborate insurance scam. Charlie’s biggest problem is believing he can trust a couple of amateurs to do a professional’s job, setting into motion a cycle of murder, blackmail and revenge that reaches as far as the town’s crooked police officer (Bryan Brown).

“Kill Me Three Times” is an unabashedly Australian production with a predominantly Aussie cast that includes Hollywood imports like Palmer and Stapleton, character actor Brown, and the decidedly less hunky and charismatic older brother of Chris and Liam Hemsworth. So what exactly is Simon Pegg doing in the film? It’s hard to say for sure, because while he’s easily the biggest name in the cast, he isn’t really the lead character either, despite the fact that it’s his narration that opens the movie. Though the actor is clearly enjoying himself playing against type, his talents are wasted in a role that consists mainly of him watching from the sidelines in amusement as others royally botch up their criminal plans. And while he may technically be a bad guy, Pegg is the only likeable character in the entire film, partly because everyone else is so poorly developed that they’re basically two-dimensional cartoons.

Divided into three chapters (titled “Kill Me Once,” “Kill Me Twice,” etc.) that reveal more of each character’s motivations and how they’re connected to the overarching story as it progresses, the movie tries way too hard to be clever. It also takes a while to get going as a result, consigned to leaving the audience in the dark for the entire first act as it plays around with unnecessary jumps in chronology that only creates more confusion. Nothing the characters do makes any sense, like why Palmer’s ruthless dental assistant would give Charlie’s business card to her brother if she was already plotting to murder Alice herself. This is just one of many lazy story developments in the film, as Stenders (working from a script by James McFarland) is quick to throw all logic out the door in favor of more twists and betrayals. The only thing the movie truly has going for it, other than Pegg’s involvement, of course, is the mercifully brisk 90-minute runtime, because while “Kill Me Three Times” had the potential to be better, it never once makes good on that promise.