REVIEW WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For Digital First Media
Have you ever contemplated the prospect of killing someone? Before you proceed with such a scheme, you might want to check out “Kill Me Three Times.” The film details the many ways that things can go awry.
“Kill Me Three Times” has many of the elements of a film noir. There’s gambling debts, blackmail, adultery, murders, attempted murders that go awry, double crosses and even triple crosses.
Muted tones of shadowy, black and white, urban nighttime scenes typically dominate the genre. “Kill Me Three Times” instead consists of brightly lit, hyperchromatic shots, set in a sunny town in Australia. Then, there’s the matter of tone. Starkly contrasting with the lachrymose mood that pervades most film noir, “Kill Me Three Times” is a hoot. It evokes memories of early Coen Brothers’ fare, which revived the genre, albeit with certain stylistic revisions.
Charlie Wolfe (Simon Pegg) is a private investigator, who sports a distinctive blonde fu Manchu, wears a Johnny Cash all-black wardrobe, and drives a 1960’s era Oldsmobile Toronado. He exudes an air of gleeful sliminess. No regrets here.
A perpetually glowering Jack Taylor (Callan Mulvey) operates a bar in a coastal Aussie town. When Jack opens his private safe, we see stacks of cash. Apparently, business is booming.
Jack’s wife, Alice (Alice Braga), works with him as a bartender at the venue. Prompted by her husband’s moodiness and abusiveness, she seeks comfort in the arms of a hunky garage owner, Dylan Smith (Luke Hemsworth). Luke plans to sell his garage, then run away with Alice. To facilitate the transition to a new life, Alice purloins cash from her husband’s safe.
Consumed with suspicions that his wife is cheating on him, Jack hires Charlie to shadow her. Charlie comes back with footage of Alice and Luke making whoopee in the latter’s trailer. Outraged by the betrayal, Jack realizes that he can’t endure being cuckolded. Will Charlie whack her for Jack? For a price tag of $100,000 – no worries mate.
Nathan Webb (Sullivan Stapleton) operates a successful dental practice. His shrewish wife, Lucy (Teresa Palmer), serves as his receptionist. However, there’s trouble in paradise. Nathan is a gambling addict. Totally out of control, he has racked up an outstanding debt of $250,000 to a local bookie.
A local cop, Bruce Jones (Bryan Brown) pays a little visit to Nathan. He advises Nathan that the bookie, who is owed the money, just happens to be Bruce’s cousin. Bruce claims that he has interceded in Nathan’s behalf and talked his cousin out of sending some goons over to collect the money from Nathan.
Now, Nathan has one week to pay up or things are going to get very ugly for him. Oh yeah – Nathan now has to comes up with an extra $50,000 to compensate Bruce for his intervention.
How can Nathan come up with the cash that he owes? Lucy comes up with a solution. They will fake her death and collect on a lucrative insurance policy. All they need is a corpus delecti. How about killing a patient, then using their body to simulate Lucy’s corpse?
After Jack smacks Alice in the jaw, she calls Nathan’s office to schedule an appointment for some emergency dental work. Guess who is chosen to be a convenient victim to implement Lucy’s plan? Now, Alice is the object of two independent murder schemes.
Once Alice is in the dental chair, Nathan injects her with a potent anesthetic that renders her comatose. He and his wife stuff Alice’s unconscious body into Lucy’s red Volkswagen bug. They light it on fire, then send it plunging over a cliff. Certainly, she must be dead. How could she have possibly survived the fiery crash? Hidden in the bushes, Charlie witnesses the whole thing.
Although Charlie hasn’t lifted a finger, he has no compunction about claiming credit for Alice’s demise. Charlie shows up at the bar to receive the promised payment from Jack. However, when Jack opens the safe, he discovers that Alice has absconded with the cash that had been reposing there.
After coming from the scene of the crash, Officer Jones intuits that Nathan and Lucy are trying to pull off an insurance swindle. Now, he shows up at Nathan’s office to blackmail the couple. Never shy about exploiting the vulnerability of others, Officer Jones also blackmails Jack about his scheme to bump off his wife. Alice.
Where will it all end? Courtesy of a few unanticipated plot twists, not where you expected.
In his debut screenplay, James McFarland provides a cleverly-plotted storyline. It boasts some interesting flourishes. A recurrent scene of kangaroo roadkill lies close to a sign that warns motorists, “Dangerous Coast: Lives Have Been Lost.” It is near the cliff, from which Nathan and Lucy dispatch the car that contains Alice’s unconscious body.
Director, Kriv Stenders, is best known for his 2011 film, “Red Dog.” It was nominated in seven categories in the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards and won for Best Film. It was also nominated in nine categories at the year’s Inside Film Awards, winning seven, including Best Film. Here, Stenders moves the action with aplomb, while infusing it with the intended humorous tone. He elicits a particularly delightful performance from Simon Pegg.
If you want to see a jocular permutation of traditional film noir, “Kill Me Three Times” is a selection that you will enjoy.
*** R (for bloody violence, language and some sexuality) 90 minutes
Nathan Lerner sees over 200 features a year. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.