Lost in its multi-layered storytelling, this dark comedy is nowhere near dark or funny enough.
Kill Me Three Times
Kriv Stenders’ Kill Me Three Times, isn’t just a movie, it’s a state of mind. By which I mean, in watching the film one rather starts to hope not once but at least three times, that either the film or the viewer will be allowed the release of death. Ok, I’m being melodramatic. But Kill Me Three Times is melocomedic, so I think I’m justified. Stenders claims in his press notes to have wanted to create a popcorn film, and his hitman comedy of errors starts out on the right track, intriguingly telling its story backwards, but its inside-out layers quickly spiral out of control in a bloody frenzy that will cause most viewers to leave any appetite for popcorn on the floor of the theater.
Starting at the end, Simon Pegg (who must have owed someone a favor in between Mission: Impossible and Star Trek films) is hitman Charlie Wolfe, and he’s in rather a pickle. A rare scenario we come to see for this ruthless and self-assured criminal, who we see adeptly taking out a dude as he backtracks how he came to be in his current bind. Charlie starts following a woman, Alice (Alice Braga), who is clearly his next target. But before he can carry out the job, she makes a stop at the office of dentist Nathan (Sullivan Stapleton) and his wife Lucy (Teresa Palmer). Charlie watches as Nathan and Lucy surprisingly knock out Alice and put her in the trunk of their car. As Charlie follows he watches as the amateur husband and wife team enact a scheme to collect life insurance on Lucy by mixing up their dental records, putting the unconscious Alice in the driver’s seat of Lucy’s car before setting it on fire, and sending it off a cliff. Charlie leaves, satisfied his job was just done for him, but in the next segment we flash further back to learn the motivations behind Charlie’s hiring by Alice’s abusive husband—who rightly suspects her of cheating with gas station attendant Dylan (Luke Hemsworth)—and the financial troubles that have led to Lucy and Nathan’s fumbled murderous plans.
When the film goes in for its third, and most convoluted, layer of the story it starts to arc back to the present and just how out of control everyone’s master plans go. In this sort of film a certain level of double-crossing is a given, and yes it can be funny when the double-crossing borders on the ridiculous, but the levels of treachery revealed in the last 15 or so minutes of the film aren’t at all driven by plot and appear to be thrown in for the sake of blood and gore. It’s one thing to be Quentin Tarantino and start off a film at gore levels around 8, quickly elevating to 10 to show he means business, and then escalating to levels around 15 to prove he’s discovered blood-thresholds you didn’t know possible. But starting and maintaining about a 2 and then suddenly erupting into an 8 is just confusing, and like I said earlier, a real appetite suppressant.
Pegg does his best to keep the comedy playful, though Charlie is written like most cocksure hitman, and rather plays into expectations with his bravado and hardness. He’s clearly the most underutilized asset the film has and it’s a tragedy watching him adhere to a script hardly worth his notice. Nathan and Lucy’s storyline is the easiest to laugh at as the mismatched couple fight over their ambitious plan to make some quick money, but their mutual animosity rather ensures their destruction, so there’s no real surprises in their storyline. Braga is the most compelling to watch, fighting for her life and seeking revenge. Hemsworth’s role is minimal, but like all the Hemsworth men, whether by muscle or emotion, makes his presence known. If there is a star of the film it ends up being the Australian coastline, present in almost every scene and rather distracting in how much more appealing it is to everything else happening. And while the bright and airy atmosphere may have played off interestingly against a black comedy, this comedy isn’t nearly dark enough to contrast.
With its layered backwards style, the film moves along at a rather stop-and-go pace; like a student driver using a little too much gas and a little too much pressure on the break. But instead of whiplash, the more likely result of Kill Me Three Times is a general sense of nausea and a lingering feeling that Stenders missed an exit somewhere along the line.