Dir: Kriv Stenders. Australia. 2014. 91mins
There is a lot of glossy style to Kriv Stenders’ interweaving crime-comedy Kill Me Three Times, and while the Australian coastal locations make for excellent eye-candy the neo-noir plot is achingly familiar as a series of largely unpleasant murder-minded folk try and kill off each other. Simon Pegg at least has a little fun as the black-suited assassin caught up in some twisted plans and murderous plots.
The film’s structure is clever enough – with Teresa Palmer especially effective as the conniving and controlling Lucy, and Alice Braga effective as the battered wife desperate to escape – but for this sort of film to really work, the dark humour needs to complement that smart plotting.
Stenders, who made the much-appreciated Red Dog, makes the most of the stunning locations but in the end can do little more than make the film pacy and glossy, being rather let down by a James McFarland’s derivative script (think Pulp Fiction meets Seven Psychopaths, but without the smart humour and dark surprises) that is never quite as funny as it thinks it is. The film premiered at Toronto, where Pegg’s name and its genre credentials may help open a few doors.
The film looks good right from the start with its rockin’ soundtrack and smart graphic titles and it astutely sets itself up – with Pegg’s investigator/assassin Charlie Wolfe announcing his surprise about dying in ‘a place like this’ – before slipping into its interweaving non-sequential structure that offers up three chapters, and allows the story of murderous plotting to be told from a series of different perspectives. The main gag is that while Charlie is the pro-killer, ironically he ends up being mainly an observer as a series of amateur killers get in on the act.
The film is set around Eagles Nest in Western Australia, a lovely area of long sandy beaches (and also handy for the deserts, cliffs and remote quarries much loved by killers) but is also clearly a haven for murder-minded folk.
The main participants in the murderous plots are dentist Nathan Webb (Sullivan Stapleton), and his wonderfully ruthless receptionist wife Lucy (an excellent Teresa Palmer); wife-beating bar owner Jack Taylor (Callan Mulvey), whose jealousy over his wife Alice (Alice Braga) has driven her into the muscular arms of surfer dude/mechanic Dylan (Luke Hemsworth), and snarlingly corrupt cop Bruce (veteran performer Bryan Brown).
The film’s structure is clever enough – with Teresa Palmer especially effective as the conniving and controlling Lucy, and Alice Braga effective as the battered wife desperate to escape – but for this sort of film to really work, the dark humour needs to complement that smart plotting. There are times when it also all connects, but in the end you end up wanting to like it more than you actually do…which is a shame, because Stenders is a talented filmmaker and there are moments when the glossy action ties together nicely. But in the end it never quite all clicks.
Production companies: Parabolic Pictures, Stable Way Entertainment, Feisty Dame Productions
International sales: Cargo, www.cargoentertainment.com
(US sales WME, www.wmeentertainment.com)
Producers: Laurence Malkin, Share Stallings, Tania Chambers
Executive producers: Jed Weintrob, Jan Korbelin, Bryce Menzies, Ian Gibbins, Jack Drewe, Joan Peters, Aaron L. Gilbert, Alan Simpson
Screenplay: James McFarland
Cinematography: Geoffrey Simpson
Editor: Jill Bilcock
Production designer: Clayton Jauncey
Music: Johnny Klimek
Main cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Alice Braga, Teresa Palmer, Callan Mulvey, Luke Hemsworth, Bryan Brown, Simon Pegg