If Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino had a love child who was forever dogged by its parents successful shadow and moved to Australia in its turbulent teens to “find itself”, it would be Kill Me Three Times.
This Australian-set black comedy caper is most akin to Tarantino’s 1994 hit Pulp Fiction, with its three perspective trope, but it has none of the razor sharp wit and charm of its inspiration. Instead, it plops Britain’s favourite funny-man Simon Pegg somewhere on Perth’s picturesque West Coast where a very clunky and convoluted hit is being carried out.
Pegg stars as Charlie Wolfe, a sniggering, moustachioed assassin hired by brutish bar owner Jack (the always enjoyable intense Callan Mulvey of TV’s Rush), to kill his straying wife Alice (Brazilian-American actress Alice Braga). It is initially unclear why Alice must be knocked off, but once her husband’s motivations become clear, it’s still highly unjustified.
As well as Jack, Alice’s snarky sister-in-law Lucy (a just visibly pregnant Teresa Palmer) is also ridiculously keen to do Alice in, concocting an elaborate insurance scam with her nervy hubby Nathan (Sullivan Stapleton; Strike Back, Animal Kingdom). Then there’s the one nice character, Dylan (leftover Hemsworth brother Luke Hemsworth), who aggravates the situation as Alice’s secret-but-soon-to-exposed lover.
Director Kriv Stenders (Red Dog) has never been subtle about drawing on other films as influences, but this latest offering is certainly not backward in coming forward, and there are many elements of classic Edgar Wright in the scene structure of the film.
Known for his larrikin leads in the cultish Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End), Pegg brings some wink-wink-nudge-nudge fence jumping, hand stabbing and getting impaled moments to the role. There are also more nods to Tarantino, think, the iconic guns in the boot low angle shot.
Despite cutting a striking figure against a colourful, seaside backdrop, the character of Charlie Wolfe is frustratingly two-dimensional. We are never sure how this funeral-ready dressed Pom ended up in Australia, let alone the middle of nowhere in Perth, and by the end, we are still none the wiser.
Kill Me Three Times also only has a total cast of eight, and despite some neat cameos from the likes of Bryan Brown as a bent copper and a brief but nice opening scene from an ill-fated Steve Le Marquand, none of the characters are sympathetic. Charlie is driven by money, Jack by jealousy, and Lucy by greed.
Palmer and Stapleton give the best performances as a mismatched couple at loggerheads. Blonde beauty Palmer shakes off all her usual leading lady vibes, even outdoing Pegg in the psychotic stakes, and Stapleton is perfect as a dim-witted dentist with a gambling habit. Miniature Hemsworth Luke gets his shirt off in one steamy scene, as is the requirement for the Hemsworth brothers it seems, and although he is the only character capable of proper affection, his performance is wooden.
Braga brings dead-eyes to the role of the headhunted Alice (who just won’t bloody die!). Although she is the battered wife of the piece, she shows very little warmth as a character, so you end up preferring watching her getting stalked rather than saved. That’s the one thing Kill Me Three Times does well – you will root for the nutters the whole way.
Kill Me Three Times looses its way. There are some nice moments, some surprising little twists and turns towards the end, but overall there is no gravitas, no deeply dark or comical plot points. You won’t laugh out loud and you won’t feel for the characters, but you might just like seeing Australian cinema trying to branch out. Trying, very hard.
Kill Me Three Times will be available on digital download, Blu-Ray & DVD from September 9.