Editor’s note: Our review of Kill Me Three Times originally ran during London Film Festival 2014, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release.
Kill Me Three Times is a comedic thriller that follows three overlapping murder plots in a gorgeous Australian beach town, all narrated by Simon Pegg as Charlie Wolfe, a quick-witted, heartless assassin. Scenes are shown from different characters’ points of view in non-chronological order as the lives of six locals (played by prominent Australian actors) intertwine. Sounds engaging and fun in theory, but in practice the humor is almost non-existent apart from Pegg, and the Wild Things-style “twists” rarely surprise.
The intricate plot goes something like this: Wolfe is hired by a man (Callan Mulvey) to murder his wife (Alice Braga), but he doesn’t realize that two other people (Teresa Palmer and Sullivan Stapleton) already have detailed plans to kill her as part of an insurance scheme. Braga’s new boyfriend (Luke Hemsworth) goes after the husband while the local police officer (Bryan Brown) pursues one of the potential killers who has enormous gambling debts. All of these characters know each other personally, but they each have varying knowledge of how connected their lives truly are.
Director Kriv Stenders shot most of Kill Me Three Times in beautiful, picturesque Western Australia, a location so stunning that the film has an inherent advantage. The abrasive, repetitive score, however, works hard to kill mood, seeming to never cease for the first half of the movie. The music sounds like a mixture of a James Bond film and a stereotypical surf track, with a hint of a Western to boot, but more importantly – it just doesn’t stop. If feels like a 30-second sound clip is playing on a loop for the first good chunk of the movie; hardly an endearing way to open a film.
The beginning of the film feels a lot like the first few episodes of Arrested Development season four. There’s an enormous amount of exposition that needs to be set up in order for the future hijinks to succeed. So for a while, James McFarland’s script introduces character after character, in lengthy, humorless stretches, mostly without without Pegg on hand, and when Charlie does have a few lines they’re not particularly inventive or funny. It’s almost as if Charlie only became comedic once Pegg came on board.
Once the characters and subplots have been established, the thriller aspect of Kill Me Three Times picks up exponentially. Most of the film’s humor, Pegg aside, comes from the shenanigans that start to occur once the various murder schemes intertwine. Stenders relishes in slow, deliberately drawn-out violence, fully embracing the film’s title. The white beach backgrounds bring out the brightness in the blood, making the film’s stark coloring one of its best features.
Kill Me Three Times ultimately fails to make much of a mark because it doesn’t really excel at the thrills or the laughs. It’s never all that creative or exciting, and it doesn’t have any laugh-out-loud moments either. The script is spread too thin trying to achieve both, and while Pegg’s filmography has shown him capable of leading cross-genre films before Kill Me Three Times is unfortunately closer to a Paul than a Shaun.
The Upside: A stunning Western Australia backdrop; vibrant violence; occasionally exciting
The Downside: Never particularly funny; doesn’t add anything new to the thriller lexicon; a horrendous score
On the Side: It was Pegg’s idea for Charlie to sport a handlebar mustache and a scorpion neck tattoo (the tail of which can be just seen poking out of Charlie’s shirts).