After the hit Red Dog, Australian director Kriv Stenders assembled Simon Pegg, Teresa Palmer, Sullivan Stapleton and Bryan Brown, among others, for his next film. What did it lead to? The misfiring crime caper Kill Me Three Times.
There’s a bit to like about the film, particularly its sweeps through glorious West Australia vistas. But the film’s relative lack of success — it had a minor theatrical run here and overseas, before a quick digital and now home entertainment release — says more about the Australian appetite for genre films (of lack thereof) than anything else.
Australia just doesn’t embrace them. Just last year we picked a horror movie, The Babadook, as best film of the year and saw it win audiences and acclaim overseas, but it didn’t register with audiences here.
And in the light crime genre, we’ve made some rippers, including Gettin’ Square and Dirty Deeds, but they haven’t hit big. Five years ago, we thought genre films were the accessible way into the world because we could make them with Australian budgets and international aspirations. That’s true to a point; but they fail to register at home.
Kill Me Three Times (MA15+, eOne, 90min, $24.99) isn’t as effective as the ones named above, largely because it seems derivative, particularly of Quentin Tarantino. And of all the filmmakers likely to exert an influence, he is probably the worst, because he hoovers up all cinema before him. Your Tarantino homage is, by definition, redundant.
In Kill Me Three Times, Brit comedy star Pegg stars as Charlie Wolfe, a moustachioed assassin whom, despite his black garb, you always expect to do something comedic. Pegg’s desire to play a villain is understandable but he has quite the screen stereotype to crack. And Kill Me Three Times doesn’t help because it wants to be a straight thriller with a bit of comedy, so it’s inviting you to believe he will be the comedian, not the killer. The film’s comedy (such as it is) is the contrast of the banal with the brutal, the humdrum with the horror, which Tarantino does so well. But it’s not particularly witty.
The film opens with Charlie going through the motions of another hit, before becoming something of a bit player as the drama unfolds of an insurance scam involving Alice Braga’s victim character, her sister-in-law (Palmer, one of the film’s bright spots) and her husband (the underutilised Stapleton).
Flashbacks fill in some plot gaps and characters roll in and out as regularly as the wide shots of numerous cars cruising along the WA coast. Which is fine, because Western Australia is the film’s best character. I could ignore the thin characterisations and pedestrian plot points in James McFarland’s script when taking in the locations.
Kill Me Three Times isn’t The Truman Show. It’s not even Gettin’ Square, as it doesn’t fully commit to its comedy and isn’t dramatic enough with its crime. It possesses some nice components, but it’s either all in or it’s a mess.