Kill Me Three Times is a darkly comic backstabbing caper flick that cruises right down the middle of the road. It’s pretty slick, but not really going anywhere new. The story relies too heavily on coincidences and clichés while tossing in a bit of extra flash to make them fun enough to stomach. And despite frequent plot twists, it probably won’t catch you by surprise. But a consistent dark comedy tone is easy to botch, and Kill Me Three Times confidently captures a great atmosphere, making for a mostly enjoyable ride.
The film follows seven interconnected characters that are all either trying to kill each other or run away together. It’s got jilted lovers in a love triangle, a gambler who’s in too deep, a bossy wife. And of course, it’s got a crooked cop and a hitman; additional stock characters whose motivations should be pretty obvious: play these yokels like fools.
Out of the seven, the only one with any real presence is Simon Pegg’s Charlie Wolfe, the enthusiastic hitman. His over-the-top cheekiness is the perfect centerpiece to anchor this formula thriller. His presence, along with beautifully photographed Australian landscapes and a couple of badass cars, is enough to make you feel like you’re watching a bigger, more entertaining movie than you are.
Not content to rely solely on Pegg’s charm or his cinematographer’s skill, the director attempts a few ill-advised narrative techniques that are appropriate to the genre, if not his script. We start off with a flash-forward, move back in time, then move further back in time, then jump back to somewhere in the middle. The three main sequences are buttressed by the title’s motif; “Kill Me Once,” “Kill Me Twice” … but these arbitrary divisions don’t seem to have much logical connection to what’s happening in between. Presumably the intent of the jumbled narrative and title cards was to inject some extra personality, but instead, these gimmicks only shed light on the lack of original story arcs.
If you’ve seen one or two neo-noir thrillers like this, you’ll know what to expect, plot-wise. But watching Pegg strut around as the brazen, boisterous hitman is worth the price of admission. And Pegg’s performance alongside the understated cast that categorically falls within the appropriate tropes almost makes it feel like his Charlie Wolfe is a real-world person dropped into a formula flick from beyond the fourth wall — sort of a like a reverse Last Action Hero, if you will.