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Kriv Stender’s Kill Me Three Times is a revolutionary piece of filmmaking, in that, instead of having to watch a boring murder one time, we get to see it thrice. A gargantuan misstep of tone, perceived intrigue, and “twists,” Kill Me Three Times falls flat across the board. A completely underutilized Simon Pegg heads a cast of misanthropic baddies, each more unlikable than the last, as they participate in the same murder again and again.
Charlie Wolf (Simon Pegg) is about as cool and collected as a hitman can be. Chasing down his prey in the Australian outback, he calmly drives behind the exhausted man, waiting for his moment. As he picks him off, his phone rings, “I’ll be there in an hour;” yet another in a long list of assassinations awaits Mr. Wolf. We get a fragmented timeline for the rest of the film, picking up details on rewinds and backtracking. Nathan Webb (Sullivan Stapleton), a dentist with a gambling addiction, and his easily-provoked wife, Lucy (Teresa Palmer), are first time killers. Plotting the death of Lucy’s sister-in-law, Alice Taylor (Alice Braga), the inept dentist and his pushy wife set to work – carefully observed by Mr. Wolf. This initial segment, “Kill Me One Time,” is followed by the inevitable “Kill Me Two Times,” and “Kill Me Three Times;” each offering a different perspective on the murder. Here is where I would say “and you’ll never guess how it ends,” if, for example, Kill Me Three Times was in the least bit creative.
An unusually awful score from Johnny Klimek (Cloud Atlas) sets an eye-rolling tone for the film to come. Like a bad ’70s detective drama, or an episode of Charlie’s Angels, the limited range of the background electric guitars seems as if it is playing in a loop for 90 minutes. Equally as uninteresting is Stender’s direction, peaking at a 90° tilt, and bottoming out at the same gimmick repeated later in the film.
James McFarland’s script reads like an Elmore Leonard novel gone awry. Tactless “reveals” are delivered as if they were revelations of the highest order. The meandering narrative takes a semi-cohesive story of bumbling murder and intrigue, and turns it into a garbled mess. Not to imply it is difficult to understand, as the “Tarantino-ed” timeline works only to quickly assemble a storyline, NOT to provide interest or ambiguity. Characters are not developed beyond black and white personalities; Nathan is an all-around incompetent, Lucy is the least happy person that has ever lived, Jack Taylor is an abusive husband and a drunk. For a story supposedly told in the first person by Mr. Wolf, Simon Pegg is relatively absent from the movie – not to mention Wolf being completely uninvolved with several of the storylines. Sly wit seldom utilized in favor of a foul mouth and a dissociative coldness, Simon Pegg’s role in the film serves as little more than marketing material.
For what they are given, the actors certainly did their best. Easily blending into their two-dimensional roles, each is very comfortable with their character’s motivation and function within the narrative. Stapleton is perfectly acceptable as the fool, nervous hands constantly shaking as he goes about committing insurance fraud and various, more heinous, crimes. Palmer is perfect as the horrible wife/accomplice/pissed off murderer, quickly becoming the only character worth feeling anything for – even if that feeling is hatred. Pegg is solid enough, and while Wolf may not be his best performance ever, he is certainly not as painfully dull as the film surrounding him.
An astoundingly disappointing mystery thriller, not even Simon Pegg skillfully wielding various guns can save Kill Me Three Times from its deservedly-bleak fate. Panned by a majority of critics (who bothered to see it), one would be able to call Kill Me Three Times a hot pile of garbage, if it weren’t so utterly dull and lifeless. Kill Me Three Times is cinematic stale bread, it might look okay, but inside, it’s hard, dry, and tasteless.