Kill Me Three Times
I want to be clear, I have nothing but respect for Simon Pegg. He’s got top-class comic talent, and his performance in The World’s End was great for any actor. But since then he’s been on kind of a down streak.
It’s not really his fault; Pegg is still firing on all cylinders, but the material he has to work with is a far cry from what he got from his partnership with Edgar Wright and Nick Frost. Hector and the Search for Happiness was a disappointing rehash of much of the same ground that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty covered. And now Kill Me Three Times is a largely by-the-numbers hitman comedy straight out of the ’90s, but without the depth of character Pierce Brosnan found in The Matador or the metafictional angle Martin McDonagh exploited in Seven Psychopaths.
Pegg is the hit man Charlie Wolfe here, complete with the same handlebar moustache Jude Law wore in Dom Hemingway. Of course he’s a ridiculously self-assured jackass, and he’s been hired by even bigger jackass — conveniently named Jack (Callan Mulvey) — to spy on and later kill his wife, Alice (Alice Braga). She’s finally tired of Jack’s abusive crap, and is about to leave him for her lover, Dylan (Liam Hemsworth), after stealing a quarter of a million dollars.
But first she has to go to a dental appointment for a cracked tooth. And it turns out the dentist, Nathan (Sullivan Stapleton), and his wife, Lucy (Teresa Palmer), are also planning to kill Alice after switching her records with Lucy’s so they can fake Lucy’s death for an insurance settlement to pay off Nathan’s gambling debts to his bookie’s enforcer, Bruce (Bryan Brown), who also happens to be the local police officer. How and why they decided to kill Alice in particular isn’t really explained, but maybe it’s because she seems to be the only other woman in this sleepy little Western Australia town.
Of course, true to form, there’s a gimmick: we pass through parts of the story three different times — hey, thus the title — from different points of view, adding more information each time. That said, it’s not like each one keeps very strictly to a single character’s perspective or anything like that. Maybe that’s what first-time writer James McFarland intended, but didn’t quite manage to pull off, or maybe something got lost when director Kriv Stenders translated the script to screen. Ah, but a filmmaker’s reach should exceed his grasp.
I will give Stenders credit for one thing: the picture looks fantastic. Comedies tend to be shot brighter than dramas in the first place, but Stenders’ frames burst with color in a way most films just don’t even attempt. A red car pops out against the green foliage as it drives along a rich, brown dirt road, with a tropical blue beach at the top edge of the frame. So at least we have something very pretty to look at while we wait for Pegg to find another project worthy of his talent.
Worth It: yeah, for a rental.
Bechdel Test: fail.