“What you’re talking about is a one-way street, you understand? Once you start there is no going back.”
Ah, but there is going back if you’re watching Kill Me Three Times. I don’t necessarily mean that you’ll want to watch the film over again (you might). Kill Me Three Times is a bit of a collection of vignettes that continue to circle back upon each other. Each time you get a different perspective or a bit of new information is unveiled. For those of you who insist on a linear logic to your films, this one’s not for you. In fact, those of you who insist on logic at all might not quite get this one.
Charlie Wolfe (Pegg) is a professional hit man. In case we don’t get it, the film begins (after an extremely unnecessary climax reveal) with Charlie casually finishing a job. He’s interrupted by a phone call that sets up his next job and the impetus for Kill Me Three Times. It all centers on the character of Alice Taylor (Bragga), who has been targeted by multiple players to end up dead. And so begins a farce that almost manages to draw you into a rather unique and stylized world.
Jake Taylor (Mulvey) is Alice’s husband and a jealous man. He wants Alice dead because she’s having an affair with Dylan Smith, played by Luke Hemsworth. What are you going to do when you find out your wife is sleeping with Thor’s brother? You hire Charlie to take her out. And Charlie attempts to do just that, when he apparently stumbles upon a couple who are also trying to kill Alice.
Enter Alice’s dentist Nathan Webb (Stapleton) and his scheming wife Lucy (Palmer). He’s racked up some gambling debts, and she’s just greedy. They’re going to cash in Lucy’s life insurance policy by killing Alice and switching their dental records so it appears Lucy is the one pushing up daisies. Meanwhile Charlie just watches from a distance, as his contract might get filled by the couple, and he can collect the fee. Of course, they are bungling the job terribly.
There are some unfortunate decisions and circumstances that combine to stunt the film’s great potential. The first is with the character of Jake. In the original script and up through the production, Jake had cancer. Somewhere along the line it was decided to completely drop the story point because someone thought it made him appear too sympathetic. That’s just crazy. There aren’t any sympathetic characters in the film. The result only makes Mulvey’s performance look bad. He’s obviously playing the depressed cancer victim, but now no one knows it. It’s the kind of thing that killed Bela Lugosi’s turn at the Frankenstein Monster when references to the monster’s blindness were suddenly dropped in post-production. Now Lugosi’s aimless stumbling around just looks like bad acting. Mulvey was given the same kind of handicap here. The cancer information hugely informs the performance we get.
The second involves the casting of Simon Pegg. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a brilliant choice. He eats up the scenery with the villainous grins and stances. The problem involves his availability. He was only willing to commit two weeks to the shoot. That required sets and locations to be used for more than one schedule. Pegg is one of those actors that works best against others. He has a wacky sense of timing that plays tremendously well against others. Here his schedule did not allow for as much interface with the other characters, and the film suffers a huge loss because of it. Pegg doesn’t get to do what he does best, and there never is any kind of chemistry going on with his character. I see so many moments of lost potential because Pegg wasn’t going to be there long enough to let something develop.
The movie still tends to work for what it is intended to be. We’re talking an adult cartoon. No, not THAT kind of adult cartoon. It’s a world pretty much of its own, and you’re not supposed to impose normal logic to any of the situations. We all understand that the coyote would actually fall even before he notices he’s in midair. If you are willing to bring that kind of understanding to the party, you’re likely to enjoy yourself. The Australian locations are a wonderful setting for that kind of private-world feel. Add a twang-filled electric guitar soundtrack, and you end up with quite the stylized atmosphere. It’s a world in which the likes of Tarantino would be right at home.
It’s not just the style and atmosphere that contribute to this adult cartoon. The kills are almost comical, and there’s the usual excess of blood almost to the point of being ridiculous at times. And of course, why kill a guy with a single shot when six or seven would do just as well? If you think you’ve seen it before, it’s because you have, and director Stenders doesn’t try to pretend otherwise.
The film is populated with various eccentric characters that are just enough out of step with reality to be interesting and entertaining, but not so much so that you feel completely isolated from the film. The best of these is Australian favorite Bryan Brown as Bruce Jones, the local corrupt cop. Bruce is a great character, from his particular swagger to the way he takes off/puts on his sunglasses. This is a character who thinks he’s way cooler and younger than he actually is. It would have been cinema magic to see this character get to play off Charlie for more than the short minute or so we get. There could have been some wonderful cat-and-mouse here that screams out as yet another missed opportunity because of Pegg’s limitations.
Kill Me Three Times also contains shades of No Country For Old Men. There is more than just a Coen Brothers sensibility. Alice is not the only center of attention. There’s a satchel filled with $250,000 that makes the rounds of the various characters in a very Coen-esque plot device. Fans of those superior efforts will find the most entertainment value here. But director Kriv Stenders doesn’t just borrow from Coen and Tarantino. There are decidedly Hitchcock scenes to be found. Stenders revels in the morbid humor of the Master of Suspense. An image of roadkill that almost serves as a landmark is something I can see Hitch having more than a few laughs with. It’s a pretty twisted black comedy that lives in its own world, even if it borrows heavily from so many others.
Kill Me Three Times is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at a pretty variable 35-40 mbps. One thing I can tell you: this movie looks pretty good. The high-definition image presentation takes full advantage of the wonderful Australian countryside and coastline. The water reveals an incredibly vivid turquoise and green sea that is nothing short of mesmerizing. The Australian tourist people should forget that extra shrimp on the barbie and use some of this stuff. It’s gorgeous cinematography. Interior shots suffer a bit from a lot of white and washed colors. Otherwise there’s a rather nice front sharpness that bleeds into a soft focus in the background. This is as crystal as it gets.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is nowhere as impressive as the image presentation, but it does the job. The guitar score is often in your face a bit much. Yeah, I know it’s the style that these guys were going for. Dialog is always there, and it’s really the focus of the film. Surrounds are pretty minimal, as is any real lift from your sub. No worries, mate. It’s all as it should be.
There are two Audio Commentaries to be found here. The first features Director Kriv Stenders and Cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson. Unfortunately, Simpson doesn’t say much. Stenders is a bit manic, rarely pausing to take a breath. Much of his narration is that of a tour guide: “If you look on the right, you’ll see the wonderful….” The second also features a more subdued Stenders and three of the film’s producers.
Making Of Kill Me Three Times: (18:15) The cast and crew offer up some insight into character and particular scenes. There are too many clips, as per usual. There’s also some candid talk about Pegg’s availability and the logistic issues it caused.
Deleted Scene: (4:53) It’s a missing piece that tells us it’s Jake and Alice’s anniversary, and she joins the bar’s band to sing a song.
Q&A: (14:28) Simon Pegg joins the producers at the BFI London Film Festival following the screening of the film. You can see the credits scrolling behind them as they stand on the stage and answer questions.
You have to just go along for the ride. Don’t ask any questions, or you’re really not going to enjoy yourself here. The only time I honestly winced at anything was the absolutely worst computer-generated fire sequences I’ve ever seen. I would say it was done badly on purpose. That would go along with other aspects of the film; however, Stenders ruins it when he brags about how good they look in the bonus features. Ouch. The rest I can roll with pretty much. I guess the best description I can offer of this thing is: “It’s like an open-air insane asylum”.