Three tales of murder, mayhem and betrayal unfold as poor professional hit-man Charlie Wolfe gets caught in the middle of other people’s pre-existing problems. Usually, Charlie’s suave, efficient, and quick. He’s hired, he executes the target, he’s paid, and he’s gone. However, once he becomes tangled up in the lives of Jack, Alice, Dylan, Lucy, and Nathan, Charlie’s consistent cool is blown to smithereens. First, he’s hired by Jack to follow and take out Alice, his wife whom he’s convinced has been sleeping around. Everything runs smoothly until married couple Lucy and Nathan interfere with their own plan to kill Alice, an act which they hope will help them climb out of their ever-deepening sinkhole of debt. Meanwhile, Alice’s love interest Dylan is blinded by his rage when he learns of his peers’ intentions, and sets out on a path of revenge, demolishing anyone who dare stand in his way. When all of the group’s plans go awry, everyone is left frustrated and greedy, and it isn’t long before it’s a room full of guns all pointing at one another, shaky with anticipation.
Much in the same vein as Pulp Fiction, Kill Me Three Times follows the interweaving story lines of three different groups of people, told out of order, to keep the viewer guessing until the final act. Like a 1990s crime thriller, such as Snatch, or an early Robert Rodriguez film, Kill Me Three Times delivers trigger happy, sleek brutality hand in hand with mystery and suspense. Simon Pegg is delightful as Charlie Wolfe, the assassin with a fashion sense like Johnny Cash and a funny bone like Ricky Gervais, down on his luck in a town full of crazies. Despite his dangerous, despicable job, compared to the impatient, bloody erratic mess that the other “morally sound” characters create, by the end of the film, it actually feels like Charlie is the only one that has his act together, which makes the movie even funnier. There’s nothing more absurd than a man who murders people for a living having the highest moral character of anyone else in the story.
It’s nice to see films like this tackled with a dark sense of humor, unlike some of its more serious predecessors, such as Drive, or Mission Impossible. However, the humor, when present, is appropriate. Where this action-comedy succeeds where others have failed is that it doesn’t go straight parody, it’s an action thriller old school spy movie with elements of humor thrown in as playful jabs at some of the cliches that clog this genre. The direction is not sacrificed in the name of comedy, and therefore, the film succeeds on nearly all fronts. Kill Me Three Times knows it’s a fun, popcorn crime thriller, and embraces its own wicked shallow charm so well. To be honest, it’s just really nice to watch a movie made for adults, in a society where pop culture is consistently geared towards children.
Gorgeous shots of the Australian terrain provide a nice contrast between the gruesome, lowly activities taking place and the gorgeous surroundings where the crimes play out, helping to highlight these shocking events to an even more attention-grabbing degree. Playful uses of color and camera movement make simple moments pop and help to build tension. Director Kriv Stenders does an excellent job of capturing his homeland in all her beauty.
Overall, Kill Me Three Times is a stylish, funny, clever account of what happens when a man who has pulled off fatalities for years without a hitch gets involved with the wrong people. In this blood-soaked, slow-paced pulp thriller, the laughs are derived from such dry humor that it seems like a picture that would fit in well with the Coen brothers’ filmography. Simon Pegg shines and proves he has done more than throw his hat in the ring to be the next Bond — he’s convinced you that he’s the best candidate. Where the script struggles is with the simplistic dialogue that sometimes causes a slight lag between moments of combat, but it still holds interest with its unique method of discontinuous storytelling, which most directors would shy away from. Through this haphazard tale of criminals of all classes edging closer and closer to rock bottom, the plot keeps you guessing until the end. With quirky characters, shocking violence and enjoyably crude humor, Kill Me Three Times is the best times spent in a theater in recent memory.