Simon Pegg in Kill Me Three Times. (Magnet Releasing)
Following Quentin Tarantino’s meteoric rise to prominence after the release of Pulp Fiction in 1994, many an indie filmmakers tried their damnedest to copy his signature ouvre of meta crooks, pop-culture references, casual violence, and, of course, non-sequitur music selection, but almost all of them failed.
Though it’s been nearly two decades since the lame likes of Go or The Way Of The Gun attempted to out-snark the master, it seems there still exist pretenders to Tarantino’s cocaine-encrusted throne—namely Australian helmer Kriv Stenders, whose latest comedic criminal caper Kill Me Three Times continues to throttle this now-skeletal horse.
Kill Me Three Times follows Charlie Wolfe (Simon Pegg), a familiarly “over it” assassin with a permanent smirk and a knack for quippy obscenity. When he’s hired to kill a sultry floozie Alice (Alice Braga) in a sleepy Australian surfing town, Charlie quickly finds himself embroiled in a wildly convoluted, trifurcated murder plot involving evil ice queen Lucy (Teresa Palmer), her henpecked husband (Sullivan Stapleton), who, as it turns out, beat the wayward contract killer to the punch.
As Charlie delves further into the mystery, he begins to uncover unsavory secrets from Alice’s past, including an abusive husband (Callan Mulvey), and a hunky boy-toy (Liam Neeson). Eventually, all these competing strands overlap in predictably clever fashion, presumably to the delight of viewers who have never seen any contemporary crime movie.
Every trick Stenders deploys to attempt to freshen up the proceedings only serves to date them further. For instance, the film begins with Wolfe informing us right off the bat that he’s dead, before beginning to explain how such an event came to pass via detached voice over. This certainly was a revolutionary device back in 1950, when Billy Wilder put it to great use for Sunset Blvd., but it’s since lost some of its originality.
Furthermore, Stenders puckishly plays with time, zooming the audience back and forth, chopping and looping as he goes along. When Tarantino brought this radical storytelling structure to the forefront in the mid-90s, he was breaking the mold. Today, the trope has become so hackneyed that it’s even used in pedestrian children’s films (The Nut Job).
Now, if there’s one positive element at play here to set Kill Me Three Times apart from the numerous DTV crime flicks currently polluting Netflix, it’s the inimitable charm of leading man Pegg, who I still have yet to dislike in any on-screen appearance. He’s so breezily likable— even in a stiff, dour role like this one— that he can always manage to bring life and pep to whatever material he’s working with.
In addition, Palmer does deliver one of the nastiest FemFa’s this side of Ann Savage in Detour.
Regardless, even these strong turns can do nothing to salvage this flat, loveless cover band of a film.
Kill Me Three Times
Now on iTunes/On Demand and in theaters April 10.
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