Theatrical Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Fan of Clever Dark Comedies
(Note: This film was screened at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival)
In my book, as far as crime movies go, the only thing better than a violent film with dark undertones and gun play is one where the criminals are so inept or riddled with bad luck that the entire process goes from a Scorsesian masterpiece to a Tarantinoesque tragicomic tale of double crosses, torrid love affairs and attempts at redemption.
In the pleasant Australian indie flick Kill Me Three Times, filmmaker Kriv Stenders gets inspired by Quentin Tarantino in setting up a comedy of criminal errors set in a small coastal burg of the Oceanic land Down Under.
Set over the course of a few days, Kill Me Three Times explores a multitude of crimes crossing paths when a hired hitman (Simon Pegg, having serious fun in the role) is sent by a local bar owner (Callan Mulvey) to kill his unfaithful wife (Alice Braga), who’s having an affair with the local mechanic (Luke Hemsworth).
If this pickle wasn’t enough of a bad situation, a local dentist (Sullivan Stapleton) over his head in gambling debt is also plotting to use the cheating wife as a body double for the accidental death of his own wife (Teresa Palmer), so the two can claim the life insurance against the latter and live a rich life of leisure. This plan would be foolproof, were it not for the intervention of the local corrupt constable (Bryan Brown), who’s just looking for his taste of the action.
When the dentist/wife pair end up getting to the cheating wife first, cutting off the hitman at the pass, this mishmash of half-baked crimes turn into a veritable farce of ineptitude leading to a conclusion of blunderous proportions.
There is a definite Tarantino vibe to Kriv Stenders’ work here that evokes shades of Pulp Fiction, especially in terms of its shuffled timeline which approaches events from multiple viewpoints, often overlapping to provide additional perspective to an already messy situation.
British comic actor Simon Pegg steals the show as cynical and acerbic hitman Charlie Wolfe, co-starring with a who’s who of Aussie names, including Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies), Bryan Brown (F/X, Cocktail), Sullivan Stapleton (300: Rise of an Empire), Callan Mulvey (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Alice Braga (Elysium) and Luke Hemsworth (Australian TV’s Neighbours, also the eldest Hemsworth brother).
Shot on a modest budget, the film is overly familiar, and you may not realize there are no extras in any scene until the film is almost over. The cinematography compensates for this by providing of the nicest Western Australian vistas the continent offers.
While the dialogue isn’t exactly inspired, nor is the story, the premise is just goofy enough to allow Pegg to do his thing, fire guns and crack wise with his co-stars, though Palmer gets very little to do except complain and yell at every man on the screen. All five of them.
Granted, many of this film’s techniques and tools are borrowed from bigger, more high-profile films of years past, but they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If so, let’s hope Quentin watched this in his Hollywood home with buddy Robert Rodriguez and gleefully smirked a few times.
Though nowhere as polished and popular as its Oscar Nominated American cinematic cousin, this Aussie indie still makes a valiant effort to convey crime gone wrong, all while providing a few laughs for the audience.
I like to think of Kill Me Three Times as the Little Crime Film That Could, a simple tale about simple people hoping for great things, but turning up empty in both luck and talent.
3 out of 5
Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.