You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Kill Me Three Times’

Simon Pegg plays a bemused hitman in Kriv Stenders' tiresomely derivative Australian-noir bloodbath.

Sullivan Stapleton, Alice Braga, Teresa Palmer, Callan Mulvey, Luke Hemsworth, Bryan Brown, Steve Le Marquand, Simon Pegg.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2393845/

Screen violence doesn’t get much cheaper or more gratuitous than in “Kill Me Three Times,” a sun-drenched, blood-spattered Australian thriller that seems to fancy itself the first movie ever to feature characters shot to death at point-blank range. Playing like a beach bum’s “Double Indemnity” with a few sub-Tarantino chronological backflips thrown in, director Kriv Stenders’ tiresome tale of scheming adulterers, cruel spouses and one bemused hitman (Simon Pegg) feels like poser noir all the way, never achieving the darkly comic flair or freshness of style needed to sell its fatalistic twists. Although picked up for Stateside release by Magnolia, “Three” will add up to very little commercially.

From the moment professional assassin Charlie Wolfe (Pegg) opens the movie with a loud “Fuck me!” and proceeds to tell us how he came to meet his death on a gorgeous stretch of beach in Eagles Nest, Australia, you can feel Stenders and screenwriter James McFarland straining to lend their story as much rude personality and self-conscious attitude they can manage. Their chief gambit is a time-shuffling, nested-flashback structure that divides the story into three parts, with each new chapter clarifying and complicating the one prior. In theory, this means that nothing onscreen is exactly what it appears to be. But in practice, everything is more or less exactly what it appears to be, in part because each story development and stylistic decision feels like a borrowed move.

One of the movie’s better jokes is that Charlie, although certainly proficient at his job, isn’t the one who sets the cycle of carnage in motion, and indeed often finds himself on the periphery of the action. In the first chapter, he watches as capital-F femme fatale Lucy (Teresa Palmer) and her hapless physician husband, Nathan (Sullivan Stapleton), carry out the murder of Alice (Alice Braga), which they’ve carefully devised so as to look like an accident. In the next chapter, we glean more about their apparent motives, connected with the fact that Alice is having an affair with hunky auto mechanic Dylan (Luke Hemsworth), while trying to escape the clutches of her jealous, abusive husband, Jack (Callan Mulvey). There’s also a safe full of cash, a coveted insurance policy, and far too many loaded weapons for any of it to end well.

Eventually it’s revealed exactly how Charlie fits into these overheated machinations, which are neither developed in a way that would lure us into complicity with the characters, nor imbued with the kind of dark, disarming wit that would allow us to enjoy their venal behavior. Everything instead feels stilted and mechanical, rigged to get us from point Z to point A. And apart from the choice locations and d.p. Geoffrey Simpson’s sizzling widescreen compositions, which nicely capture the feel of a deceptive paradise where terrible things happen in broad daylight, the indifference of the storytelling is mirrored by a curious flatness in the filmmaking.

Johnny Klimek’s score recycles the same guitar motif endlessly, to the point where it seems to be operating independently of the action. Worse, the film is far too enamored of scenes in which blood gushes lovingly from gunshot wounds, drawn out in pornographic slo-mo. Before his 2011 commercial breakthrough with the family-friendly canine tale “Red Dog,” Stenders was no stranger to noirish thrillers (“Lucky Country,” “Boxing Day”), but in taking such unseemly delight in its own carnage, the director’s sixth feature feels both amateurish and adolescent, evincing none of the tonal control or finesse needed to elicit more than a yawn.

Between this and the recent “Hector and the Search for Happiness,” Pegg is clearly trying to expand his range beyond the Edgar Wright/Nick Frost collaborations that remain his cinematic sweet spot. He’s watchable enough here (as is the whole ensemble), but it never begins to make sense why this nimble comic talent was considered a good fit for such juiceless, mirthless material. No actor could enliven the bit where Charlie takes a phone call, says “Could you hang on one second?” and then casually executes the target cowering in front of him — a moment that, like so much else in “Kill Me Three Times,” expresses little more than easy contempt and invites much the same response.

Film Review: 'Kill Me Three Times'

Reviewed at Busan Film Festival (World Cinema), Oct. 2, 2014. (Also in Toronto Film Festival — Contemporary World Cinema; London Film Festival.) Running time: 91 MIN.

Production: (Australia) A Magnolia Pictures (in U.S.) release of an eOne, Cargo Entertainment, Screen Australia, Screenwest and Lotterywest, Melbourne Intl. Film Festival Premiere Fund presentation, in association with Jake Film Finance and Media House Capital & Creative Wealth Media Finance, of a Parabolic Pictures & Stable Way Entertainment production, in association with Feisty Dame Prods. (International sales: Cargo Entertainment, New York.) Produced by Laurence Malkin, Share Stallings, Tania Chambers. Executive producers, Jed Weintrob, Jan Korbelin, Bryce Menzies, Ian Gibbins, Jack Drewe, Joan Peters, Aaron L. Gilbert, Alan Simpson.

Crew: Directed by Kriv Stenders. Screenplay, James McFarland. Camera (color), Geoffrey Simpson; editor, Jill Bilcock; music, Johnny Klimek; music supervisor, Warren Fahey; production designer, Clayton Jauncey; art director, Jo Briscoe; set decorator, Louise Brady; costume designer, Terri Lamera; sound, Trevor Hope; re-recording mixer, Jonathan Burton; special effects supervisor, Taj Trengove; visual effects supervisor, Julian Dimsey; visual effects, Iloura; stunt coordinator, Mitch Deans; line producer, Jane Sullivan; associate producer, Daniel Findlay; assistant director, Jamie Crooks; second unit director, Grant Sputore; second unit camera, Andrew McLeod; casting, Christine King.

With: Sullivan Stapleton, Alice Braga, Teresa Palmer, Callan Mulvey, Luke Hemsworth, Bryan Brown, Steve Le Marquand, Simon Pegg.

More Film

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

  • Roman Polanski extradition

    Academy Responds to Roman Polanski: 'Procedures Were Fair and Reasonable'

    UPDATE: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has responded to a lawsuit from director Roman Polanski that claimed he was unfairly expelled from the organization behind the Oscars. “The procedures taken to expel Mr. Polanski were fair and reasonable. The Academy stands behind its decision as appropriate,” a spokesperson said. The Academy’s statement [...]

  • Lorraine Warren dead

    Lorraine Warren, Paranormal Investigator Who Inspired 'The Conjuring,' Dies at 92

    Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigator and demonologist whose life inspired franchises like “The Conjuring” and “The Amityville Horror,” has died. She was 92. Warren’s son-in-law Tony Spera confirmed the news. Spera said on Facebook, “She died peacefully in her sleep at home.” He continued, “She was a remarkable, loving, compassionate and giving soul. To quote Will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content