KILL ME THREE TIMES
Kriv Stenders, the man behind the 2011 hit film “Red Dog” is back behind the camera again, this time in a complete shift in tone with the Crime/Comedy “Kill Me Three Times”. I’ve been following the film for about 18 months, and was pretty excited to see that it was finally getting released. Set in a tight-knit coastal town in Western Australia, Kill Me Three Times centers on Private Investigator/Hitman, Charlie Wolfe (played by Simon Pegg) and three tales involving murder, blackmail and revenge. Alice and Jack Taylor (played respectively by Alice Braga and Callan Mulvey), own the local surf club/pub and are in the midst of a marital crisis. On the other side of town, are Lucy and Nathan Webb (played by Adelaide’s own Teresa Palmer) and (Sullivan Stapleton), who run a dental practice, but have found themselves in debt due to Nathans gambling problem. Dire circumstances will see the residents of this town cross paths in all the wrong ways. The film also stars Bryan Brown, Steve Le Marquand and Luke Hemsworth.
Kill Me Three Times was one of my most highly anticipated films for 2015, and I tried hard to be objective even with the bar set very high in my mind (haha). Right from the outset, it’s clear Stender’s film is inspired by the likes of Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Robert Rodriguez (Machete), and of course the Coen Brothers (Fargo). I liked the casting choices here, there isn’t a lot of well-known talent, and therefore it gives the likes of Stapleton and Palmer the opportunity to shine. Simon Pegg’s character and performance were reminiscent of Sam Rockwell’s in the underrated “Seven Psychopaths”. I think he was an interesting choice to play Charlie. It was always going to be about balancing the comedic aspect, while still gauging a certain amount of menace. I thought the entire cast were pretty solid but Palmer seemed a little unsure at times, and Hemsworth playing Dylan Smith, the local mechanic is scarcely utilized. I was hoping for some more development involving his character, because I thought he was the only one with another layer.
As the film opens, you’ll Immediately make comparisons to countless other films. Between the combination of a Rodriguez/Tarantino style guitar score, and the film’s fast pacing and clever editing, it’s hard not too. I’m not really bothered by those nods or homages, I understand everyone is inspired by different things and I think I have a good idea of what I want to see as a viewer. It’s very original to have a film of this nature set entirely during the day, I liked that. The shots inside the club were subtly lit with shades of pink and green, and the aesthetics are nicely polished when it comes to the dental practice segment. The small amount of narration from Pegg’s character was quite humorous, but given the film’s non-linear timeline I think audiences could have benefited continuity wise, with some more voice over, if for no other reason than he was a fun character. Having watched a lot of these types of film’s I thought it was straight forward and predictable, but some of you who are not seasoned in the genre, you might get a little confused.
The beautiful blue, coastal landscape makes for some gorgeous cinematography. As a rule, rather large areas of Australia are dry and flat, hence why Kriv probably decided to shoot the film in Western Australia. All the camera work and shot choices were well conceived and give the film a really refined look. This one didn’t have a huge budget so it’s all the more impressive. A fair chunk of the running time is spent on establishing core motives for what each character is about to do, but when the action does get underway it’s a lot of fun. The effects in the film were all practical, and the blood looked great as well. I would have enjoyed seeing a few more elaborate deaths, but because this one has a comedic undertone, I don’t think they wanted people taking it too seriously.
One of the big issues with Kill Me Three Times, is that it lacks the menace and power of violence that you’d expect in a film like this. Even with its black comedy undertones, a film like “In Bruges” or “Seven Psychopaths” hits you harder when it gets to the business end of things. Don’t get me wrong, I often think less is more and the implied violence can be a lot more suspenseful than anything you see on-screen. Case in point, “Killing Them Softly” and “No Country For Old Men” are two films that do that superbly. The problem here, is that nothing ever really feels truly threatening or suspenseful. There’s no questioning, “Oh, which way will this altercation go?”, it goes pretty much exactly how you think it will and fails to generate a twist of any kind. Because of that reason, I think the deaths needed to be much more ruthless and graphic. The climax, which involves a showdown with Wolfe and Co (so as not to spoil anything), was the perfect time for writer James McFarland to let loose, but unfortunately he leaves things on a sour note and doesn’t ever put the foot on the jugular (literally or metaphorically haha). Another way of looking at it, is if the comedy was more consistent, or there were specific awkward situations that really felt funny you wouldn’t need the on-screen carnage as badly.
Now this is the big one folks. If I was a harsher critic, or didn’t have the soft spot I do for a fun Crime/Comedy film, I’d tear James and the writing apart. On this occasion, I’m guilty of partially reading a couple of early reviews, where most people made reference to the Tarantino style timeline, and fair enough. Like I’ve already said, my issue is not that Kill Me Three Times is inspired by the aforementioned. It’s that this movie already exists, and it’s called “Blood Simple”. Directed by the Coen brothers back in 1984, it remains one of my favorite movies of all time. Of the countless links being made to Tarantino, I can’t believe people are blind to the fact that this film is point for point, revelation for revelation and character for character, exactly the same as Blood Simple. Maybe it’s that McFarland simply hasn’t seen the aforementioned, but in a film that’s plot points and finer details mirror everything in said film, I find that hard to believe. It begs the question if James has seen it, What the hell was he thinking?
I can’t really discuss the in’s and out’s of the story without spoiling the film for those who haven’t seen it yet. However I can touch on it. Everything from private investigators who moonlight as assassins, to marriage problems or infidelity, to safes of money located in seedy surf shops, and or bars, (however you want to spin it). This exact movie was made 31 years ago, and it appears a lot of people just don’t know it yet. It even echoes the Coen’s in the sense that all these characters are so damn unlikable or one-dimensional. Some films, like Blood Simple for example, don’t need that drawn out exposition or huge back-story to work. The suspense alone, works so well that it’s relentless and engaging from minute one, Kill Me Three Times doesn’t manage to do that. The only new addition here is Bryan Brown, who plays Bruce Jones the local cop waiting for the money Nathan owes him. I don’t remember a cop in Blood Simple though, so I suppose that’s something (rolls eyes). Aside from all of that, I still liked most of what I saw. Sure, I’d seen it all before and that’s probably why I liked it (haha). My way of thinking is that if I liked it the first time around, Why wouldn’t I like it again with a bunch of fresh faces??
Kill Me Three Times is about as original as the Southern Cross Tattoo (maybe as ugly too). I feel like I should hate this but I don’t, although I have no choice but to make my readers aware of what they are ultimately in for (a remake of Blood Simple haha). That aside, I still can’t deny I had fun with this and you might too. It’s shot in a great location, with some up and coming Aussie talent, and of course Simon Pegg whose stellar. I loved the music, fast pacing and overall editing, when it finally gets to some action it’s a hell of a lot of fun. If this wasn’t Blood Simple it would be brilliant, but because it is, it’s not (little confusing but you catch my drift haha). I can’t blame Kriv he’s just the man behind the camera, but I suggest both James and Kriv, hell maybe the whole cast watch The Coen brothers masterpiece and you’ll understand why some people might not like your movie. I, however am not one of those people.
My rating for “Kill Me Three Times” is 6.5/10