This is the type of noir-inspired film that Australian filmmakers do really well when they tackle the genre. Written by first time writer James McFarland Kill Me Three Times is a vicious and offbeat black comedy take on the noir genre with a high body count. McFarland uses a non linear narrative structure reminiscent of classics like The Usual Suspects or early Tarantino and Coen brothers.
Simon Pegg (who currently appears in two successful franchises with the rebooted Star Trek and the action charged Mission Impossible series) headlines a small but impressive cast as Charlie Wolfe, a hitman who is hired to kill Alice Taylor (Alice Braga, from I Am Legend) by her duplicitous husband Jack (Callan Mulvey, from Zero Dark Thirty).
But he finds that he is not the only person planning to kill her, and soon finds himself caught up in an elaborate and complicated web of extortion, blackmail and murder. Alice is also targeted by Jack’s sister Lucy (Teresa Palmer, from Warm Bodies) and her dentist husband Nathan (Sullivan Stapleton, from yet to be released gritty local crime drama Cut Snake and 300: Rise Of An Empire)) who owe money to a crooked cop (played a typically laconic Bryan Brown). They plan to fake Lucy’s death, using the unfortunate Alice as an unwitting victim in their scheme, and collect the insurance money. At first Wolfe watches the various schemes from afar but is soon dragged into the thick of it when things do not go according to plan and begin to unravel in spectacular fashion.
Most of the characters here are nasty, venal and vindictive and unlikeable but the cast seem to have enjoyed playing them. Cast largely against type Pegg makes for a cold and calculating killer, and he brings touches of sardonic humour to his performance. Luke Hemsworth rounds out the cast as Dylan, a simple and broke mechanic who just happens to be Alice’s lover.
The director is Kriv Stenders, who has made crowd pleasing films like Red Dog (the highest grossing film at the Australian box office in 2011) and smaller dramas like the intense Boxing Day, which not many people saw. Kill Me Three Times is a decided change of pace for him, and is the type of film that should appeal to a fairly broad audience who can overcome their aversion to watching locally made films.
The plot takes many of the familiar tropes of the noir genre, but McFarland twists and turns them upside down with the interlocking narrative. We revisit scenes three times, each unfolding from a different perspective that shows new light on the characters and their motivations. It is a lot of fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously, and Stenders keeps a tight rein on the sinuous plot.
Kill Me Three Times was filmed in Western Australia. Stenders makes good use of the remote coastal town locations, and Geoffrey Simpson’s evocative cinematography is a major plus as he gives the film a glossy visual quality.
Director: Kriv Stenders
Cast: Simon Pegg, Alice Braga, Callan Mulvey and Teresa Palmer
DVD and on-demand release: 9 September 2015
Rated: MA 15+
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television