Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
KILL ME THREE TIMES | 90 min | R
Directed by: Kriv Stenders
Starring: Simon Pegg, Alice Braga, Sullivan Stapleton, Teresa Palmer, Callan Mulvey, Luke Hemsworth, Bryan Brown
Modern film noirs are usually a good thing. Comedically tinged modern noirs, however, are best left to the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino – or so one learns when they watch director Kriv Stenders’ KILL ME THREE TIMES, a title that refers to the three murder plots at play. Though the picture is never confusing, the twists and turns of James McFarland’s screenplay are predictable, leading to a plodding narrative. The fun kicks in whenever Simon Pegg’s around, but when he’s not, the film – and the audience – suffers somewhat.
In the film, Pegg plays mutable hitman-for-hire Charlie Wolfe. With his winnfield moustache, stylish flair for tailored black suits and his pea-green Oldsmobile Toronado, Wolfe makes a killing at, well, making a killing. But the trade gets tricky when he arrives in the seaside surfing nook of Eagles Nest, Australia, and into a heap of trouble involving Alice (Alice Braga), a dame looking to get out of the clutches of her abusive hotelier husband Jack (Callan Mulvey) and into the arms of her loving mechanic boyfriend Dylan (Luke Hemsworth). Turns out town dentist Nathan (Sullivan Stapleton), who has a penchant for the ponies, and his dental assistant wife Lucy (Teresa Palmer) are also out for the kill in order to complete an insurance scam – that is, if the town’s corrupt cop Bruce (Bryan Brown) doesn’t wreck it all.
With exception of one major detail in the third act, all the puzzle pieces snap into place perfectly and fluidly – just not briskly despite the 90 minute run time. It takes far too long for McFarland’s script to connect the dots when we’re way ahead of the game. Telling the story in a semi-non-linear format adds a bit of intrigue, but at the same time, the audience can see right through this device’s sheen. While the scenarios are smart, the dialogue lacks the crispy-crackle bite noirs need to feed, breathe and move. The ensemble, for the most part, does the best they can with the material but what really drives the narrative forward is Johnny Klimek’s surf rock guitar score. The sweet Dick Dale-inspired sounds fill the awkward gaps between lines which aren’t quite a tango with words.
Visually speaking, KILL ME THREE TIMES does something highly unique for the genre. Setting the grimy story about dirty deeds near pristine white beaches and clear blue waters provides a wonderfully inventive juxtaposition. The dichotomy it presents augments the atmosphere. Geoffrey Simpson’s cinematography also adds dramatic significance, eschewing the genre’s stereotypical chiaroscuro lighting in favor of bright, sunlit color saturation. Stenders’ camera movement and framing techniques don’t go unnoticed, but also never become obtrusive – a fine balance. Making a conscious effort to push the wide screen format adds depth and dimension. Camera tilts during power play moves between the characters (notably during Nathan and Bruce’s scuffle) is a smart, understated storytelling device. Plus, marketing’s bait-and-switch that Wolfe isn’t the protagonist (Alice is) is tremendously appealing – though, truth be told, I would have liked to see Palmer and Braga switch roles.
Bloody, brutal, but sadly also a little boring, KILL ME THREE TIMES makes for a good jumping off point for a budding auteur. It’s sloppy but scrappy, making it perfect for Netflix discovery.