J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Kill Me Three Times: Simon Pegg, Heavily Armed

It is easier to find a good hitman than a good dentist in this small Australian beachfront town. Unfortunately, Nathan Webb is not much of a DDS, but Charlie Wolfe is a highly reliable assassin. Both are out to kill Alice Taylor, but the defiant wife is surprisingly hard to kill, as the title indicates. Still, there will be plenty of other bodies piling up in Kriv Stenders’ Kill Me Three Times (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Granted, Alice Taylor has been unfaithful to her husband Jack, but it was as much a reaction against his abusive and hyper-controlling behavior as it was an attraction to likable lunk-head Dylan Smith. True to form, when Taylor says if he can’t have her, nobody can, he really means it. Initially, he only retained the hired gun to investigate her suspected affair, but when Wolfe provides the confirmation, Taylor contracts his full services.

As if that were not bad enough, Alice Taylor’s dentist also plans to bump her off. Nathan Webb has a mountain of past-due gambling debts. Most inconveniently, his bookie’s brother happens to be Bruce Jones, the local corrupt copper, who aims to collect. The plan is to stage a fiery car crash rendering Taylor unrecognizable, allowing Webb to collect on his scheming wife Lucy’s insurance policy when he switches their dental records. Obviously, these two plans will complicate each other.

Right, so let the conspiring and double-crossing commence. Arguably, there is nothing radically new in James McFarland’s screenplay, but he keeps the mayhem coming fast and furious. It also helps that Simon Pegg sets the tone right from the start, playing Wolfe with maniacal glee. He makes contract killing look like a ton of fun, which might hold less than wonderful implications for the social compact, but it works like a charm in a genre film. Likewise, Teresa Palmer makes a seriously impressive villain in the Lady Macbeth tradition as the equally sociopathic Lucy Webb. Yet, Bryan Brown tops them all for ruthlessness as the stone cold Jones.

Right, there are not a lot of “likable” characters in KM3T, but that way nobody should get too upset when misfortune and painful death starts to befall the motley crew. Logically, given their relatively straight roles, Alice Braga’s Taylor and Luke Hemsworth’s Smith (the other, other Hemsworth) are the least interesting characters. Frankly, Pegg is the star here and Palmer will get the potential breakout attention. However, fans will be amused to see Sullivan Stapleton (best known for hardnosed work in Strike Back and Animal Kingdom, as Webb, the acquiescent loser.

Australia’s sun-drenched beaches still look quite inviting, despite all the skulduggery Stenders unleashes. He lets the driving rock soundtrack and Pegg’s evil smirk set the vigorous pace and never looks in the rearview mirror. It is quite a lot of fun if you do not object to shamelessly violent humor (and what’s not to like about it?). Recommended for fans of blackly comic one-darned-thing-after-another thrillers, Kill Me Three Times opens this Friday (4/10) in New York, at the Landmark Sunshine.

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