Put actor Simon Pegg together with director Edgar Wright, and the results are frequently excellent. Shaun of the Dead (2004) was a delightful spoof of the zombie genre, Hot Fuzz (2007) a spot-on satire of English country life and cop movie tropes, and World’s End (2013) a far better than it had any right to be bro comedy with a science fiction twist. For the purposes of this narrative, we’ll ignore 2011’s dire Paul, but hey — we can call that one the exception that proves the rule, right?
Without Wright, however, Pegg frequently stumbles – see (or preferably don’t) 2007’s Run Fatboy Run for supporting evidence. Which brings me to Kill Me Three Times, a mediocre Australian thriller opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, April 10. Relying on a tricksy but entirely unnecessary three-part structure cribbed from the style manual of Alejandro González Iñárritu and reflecting the dire influences of Quentin Tarantino, it’s safe to call it a bit of a letdown.
Pegg plays Charlie Wolfe, a private investigator cum hit man who seems to have the Western Australia assassination trade all to himself. Accoutred with a magnificent pornstache that would make Peter Wyngarde’s Jason King weep with envy, Wolfe has been hired to track Alison (waifish Alice Braga), a woman of mystery kidnapped by dentist Nathan (Animal Kingdom’s Sullivan Stapleton) and receptionist wife Lucy (Teresa Palmer).
Why is Alison being subdued with dental anaesthesia and stuffed into the trunk of Nathan’s car? You’ll find out as the film proceeds, but you probably won’t care a great deal. In a completely pointless nod to Iñárritu, writer James McFarland and director Kriv Stenders decided to stick the beginning of their story in the middle of the film and the middle of the story in the beginning. Why? I have no idea. Ask them.
If you’re not already annoyed, you will be once you get an earful of Johnny Klimek’s numbingly repetitive score, which sounds like a series of sit-com bumpers stapled together and stretched out to feature length. I’m as big a fan of surf music as the next guy, but after 90 minutes of over amplified twanging you’ll be more inclined to hang yourself than to hang 10. Klimek has some talent — heck, the guy scored the excellent Sophie Scholl: The Final Days — but this is headache-inducing stuff.
Kill Me Three Times’ one saving grace is its cast. Pegg is fine and can’t resist adding a few comic flourishes to the proceedings, while Stapleton and Palmer make for an engagingly gormless pair of villains. There’s also a terrific turn by Aussie film legend Bryan Brown (Newsfront, Breaker Morant) as a bent copper up to his eyeballs in naughtiness.
At heart, though, this is a clumsy and unexciting thriller that might be considered passable entertainment on a long haul flight once you’ve finished perusing your complimentary copy of Sky Mall magazine. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see it next time you travel Down Under.
Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a weekly movie recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly. Read more from Big Screen Berkeley on Berkeleyside.
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