Culture, Film

Review: Kill Me Three Times (2015)

Kill Me Three Times movie posterIf you want to skip on, you just need to know this is the Aussie version of the Cohens’ Blood Simple. With sunshine.

Alice wants to leave town with mechanic boyfriend Dylan, but bar-owner husband Jack hires hitman Mr Wolf to kill her. Jack’s sister Lucy needs a substitute body to pull off an insurance scam with indebted gambler husband Nathan, who’s being stung by the corrupt town cop Bruce.

A solid Aussie genre-blending black-comedy-thriller, Kill Me Three Times is Blood Simple, with a workmanlike script, snappy editing and a good cast, with only one problem…

And it’s not the welcome, sinister presence of actor Bryan Brown (Cocktail, Australia) as the town sheriff, at one time compulsory in every single Aussie movie through the 90’s. Veteran Brown adds some heft to the proceedings in the way Samuel L. Jackson adds heft to a Taranatino movie. Which is another thing…

Post-Pulp Fiction, it’s really difficult to do this kind of material without the time-shifting, inter-cutting, rule-breaking kind of film-making that feels less like a movie and more like a film-school graduate project. Director Kriv Stenders mostly gets away with it by injecting some brio into work-a-day material. But really, aren’t we over the Tarantino thing by now? That should include…

The jangly Aussie surf-guitar sound-track, which in this case works rather well, if somewhat repetitively. It is a major ingredient in setting the tongue-in-cheek tone of the whole piece; we have violence, murder, betrayal and greed and yet, the fatalistic Aussie sense of humour insists on wringing every bit of farce that it can out of a traditional film-noir story. But it’s difficult to be noir when your backdrop is a blue ocean and bright sunshine. Which gives the cast a lot of work to do…

Sullivan Stapleton is the weak, inept, gambling dentist Nathan, Teresa Palmer (I am Number Four) his scheming, avaricious wife Lucy, Callan Mulvey the jealous, dirty bar-owner Jack, and who knew, there’s another Hemsworth, Luke, as muscled eye-candy mechanic Dylan. At the centre of it, Alice Braga as Alice holds her own in what would have been the Tippi Hendren role and is not merely the innocent victim of all these plot twists. Playing it straight, the cast prevent the hackneyed plot from unravelling. Which means the biggest problem the movie has is its one bankable International ‘star’, Simon Pegg…

As dodgy private investigator-slash-hitman Charlie Wolf (another unnecessary Tarantino reference) Pegg thinks it sufficient to dye his hair black, wear a black suit and carry some big guns in order to be a movie heavy. Unfortunately, he’s still doing the same comedy schtick all the way back through Paul, to Star Trek, to Mission Improbable, single-handedly undercutting everyone else’s good works to turn a snappy, low-key thriller into a parodic dream sequence from his early TV sitcom Spaced. And no one has the heart to tell him he’s not leading man material. As the token British villain, he just can’t help resorting to the squeaky, gurning, sighing, shoulder-dropping thing he does in every movie.

[Critic sighs, shrugs, pulls a face and drops shoulders in resignation – there; perfect Simon Pegg performance]

Top marks for trying to extend his range without actually, er, extending his range. The best advice I can give is try to ignore him.

Kill Me Three Times has that same rather callous humour that runs through all Aussie cinema up to and including The Dressmaker. With splattery and bloodily violent episodes that we’re invited to spectate on like fascinated schoolboys, Kill Me three Times sits uneasily between the Cohens’ comic Fargo and Ferrara’s proper modern-noir The Last Seduction. RC

Kill Me three Times (2015)
Director: Kriv Stenders
Screenplay: James McFarland
Running time: 1h 30m
Genre: Thriller, comedy
Cast: Simon Pegg, Teresa Palmer, Alice Braga, Luke Hemsworth, Sullivan Stapleton, Callan Mulvey, Bryan Brown

About Robin Catling

Writer; performer; project manager; sports coach; all-round eccentric.

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