Thursday, 10 September 2015

Film Review: Kill Me Three Times

Grimy ozploitation action meets black comedy in Kriv Stender’s underwhelming Aussie crime drama, Kill Me Three Times.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of the West Australian coastline and starring international stars like Simon Pegg, Sullivan Stapleton and Alice Braga, Kill Me Three Times offers a splintered narrative about bad people doing bad things that unfortunately never really kicks into gear. Whilst the branching storylines intertwine to form a tightly woven crime drama, this film never truly excels owing to its bland and generic premise, unoriginal execution and unlikeable characters.

Stender’s film includes an impressive cast of versatile character actors, of which Pegg is clearly the headliner; the British comic plays a professional hitman and all-round douchebag called Charlie Wolfe, a shameless gun for hire whose moral compass always points towards his next pay check. After rolling into the coastal town of Eagle’s Nest in his vintage muscle car, Charlie is recruited by Jack (Callan Mulvey) to tail his wife Alice (Braga), whom he suspects is cheating on him with another man, Dylan (Luke Hemsworth). Meanwhile, across town, two dentists (Stapleton and Teresa Palmer) are conspiring to kill Alice in order to stage insurance fraud and pay off their debt to corrupt local police officer Bruce (Bryan Brown).

Neither particularly funny nor containing any especially engaging drama, Kill Me Three Times is like an unusually drawn-out and gruesome episode of Underbelly; most of the characters are unlikeable bastards who cross and double-cross one another in pursuit of money, and the acting is wooden and charmless throughout. Even Pegg, a charismatic actor whose talent has catapulted him from lo-fi horrors like Shaun of the Dead to franchises like Star Trek, fails to illicit more than a slight grin on more than two or three occasions. In fact, the film relegates Pegg to a supporting role for most of the first act, confining him to lurking in bushes and seedily snapping pictures from afar rather than actually acting.

In fact, it’s dentistry double act Stapleton and Palmer that prove most memorable; hilarious on-screen chemistry combined with witty improvisation makes these conniving characters my personal highlight, particularly in one ill-conceived kidnap scene that recalls classic British slapstick comedy acts like Reeves and Mortimer. Palmer’s performance was a hoot; her eye-rolling frustration with Stapleton’s ineptitude consistently brought big belly laughs to the entire audience.
The film veers into murkier and more trigger-happy territory later on; after the meandering first half, Stender cranks up the dark comedic action that sees the cast meet increasingly silly and grotesque deaths, from being stabbed in the hand to being impaled through the stomach. Its nowhere near as riotous or inventive at it wants to be, with none of the cheek or vigour that other likeminded movies (i.e. Pulp Fiction, Hot Fuzz) posses.

Furthermore, Stender’s overall direction feels frigid and removed from the action; the arching landscape shots of beautiful sandy beaches might look amazing, but they also feel detached and restricted, like an ornate painting that can’t be touched. It doesn’t help that the film takes place in this disturbing Twilight Zone in which only 7 or 8 people actually exist. Outside the cast members I’ve already mentioned, there’s barely a stray extra in sight, which makes the film feel strangely empty and hollow. I also found that the soundtrack was rather distracting; the jangly Western vibes suit the tone of the film, but the same riff is repeated over and over to the point that I wanted to stuff popcorn into my ears. 

The Verdict: 4/10

Uneven and unappealing, Kill Me Three Times wastes a talented cast and idyllic locations on a mediocre script and stilted camerawork. Stender wears his influences on his sleeve, but doesn’t come close to replicating their successes.

Kill Me Three Times is available on DVD and Blu-ray now. This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.

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