Its wildly unimaginative title is an early clue-in of what Kill Me Three Times has to offer – the film makes a point of flashing it up several times, emphasising the one, two, three, usually accompanied by gunshot sound effects or the same soporific bass-and-brass musical line it employs throughout. “Wow”, we are supposed to think, “you can’t kill a person more than once, and yet that is exactly what the title of this zany thriller implies! Whatever will they think of next?”1 Unfortunately, this kind of smirking, tryhard attitude blights most of Kriv Stenders’ film, whose fun premise and welcome appearances from Simon Pegg, Alice Braga, and Bryan Brown can do little to help it escape knock-off status. Kill Me Three Times is what happens when filmmakers are so visibly desperate to create a product that they forget to make a coherent film. In this case, and I’d bet this phrase was actually used in a marketing meeting at one point, the basic sales pitch is ‘In Bruges with an Aussie twist’. As it happens, though, getting Shaun of the Dead to say ‘fuck’ a lot, and killing off your entire cast like you’re Shakespeare, is not a substitute for the wit and inventiveness of films like those made by the McDonaghs and Matthew Vaughn.
The suitably twisty plotline is serviceable enough: Alice Taylor (Braga) plans to escape her grimy bar-owner boyfriend with her lover Dylan (Luke “The Other One” Hemsworth), while Pegg’s dapper but unstable hitman Charlie Wolfe tails them both. Meanwhile, local gambling addict and dentist Nathan and his wife Lucy, sister of the bar owner, scheme to carry out insurance fraud by murdering Alice and claiming the payout by pretending the body belongs to Lucy. Bryan Brown, in a role crassly designed to appeal to international audiences thirsty for some ocker in their Australian films, plays Bruce – of course – a corrupt police officer who wanders around town threatening everyone for no discernible reason. Got all that? Good, now forget it all, because, amazingly for a film with exactly seven speaking roles, Kill Me Three Times makes its characters’ motives and relationships as clear as mud, plainly in service of the kind of multi-viewpoint comic-book-violent genre tropes it tries to emulate.
For example, several early scenes are repeated as the characters are introduced – crucially, though, there’s never enough new plot information given between repetitions, and so we’re left with more questions rather than answers to previous ones. Lucy and Jack’s sibling relationship is alluded to once, but then becomes a key driver of later plot actions in a way that’s never believable. It doesn’t help, either, that the sums of money being fought over come from different sources, comprise different amounts, and unmemorably change hands via tired scenes of safe-raiding and at-gunpoint-holdups, making it almost impossible to grasp a steady mental plotline. The basic failing of the film’s attempt to appropriate the cut-and-paste chronology comic crime thriller is its under-reliance on absurdity – only Pegg’s character has the larger-than-life quality required to make the intended black comedy click, and so the remaining cast’s lackadaisical attitude to being shot, stabbed, incinerated, or driven off cliffs seems totally at odds with their generally realistic characterisations.
There is, in fairness, something going on visually, with the colour gradients dialled way up to accentuate the blue sea, green trees, and white sand of the film’s Western Australian setting. This kind of pop-art stylisation served films like Kick-Ass and Lucky Number Slevin well, and would have been even more welcome here if the rest of the film had been able to match it. Even the freshness of the palette is dampened, though, by needless repetition, as Stenders crams genre references down viewers’ throats: the fifth or sixth time a character gets in a car to go somewhere and the next shot swoops in over turquoise waves to show them driving some twisty ocean road, accompanied by that infernal bassline, you may begin to wonder if there’s a scratch on your Blu-Ray.
Kill Me Three Times does in the end feel more like a missed opportunity than an out-and-out disaster, particularly with Australian cinema crying out for the production of genre films which substitute playfulness for their usual glib nature. A few sparse moments are up to this task, but for the most part, the film comes across as a WA tourist board ad made on a budget by a Smokin’ Aces aficionado, neither smart enough to earn its affectations, or affected enough to be very smart.
Note: the review copy we received did not have any special features or extras. The physical release is worth inspecting for those.