It gives me no pleasure to tell you that Simon Pegg’s latest, “Kill Me Three Times,” is terrible. The movie, meant to be a one-part crime-thriller and one-part black comedy, fails to thrill or elicit laughs. But perhaps it’ll bring you some solace that it’s not really Pegg’s fault. Despite what the promotional materials would have you believe, he’s just not in the movie enough to take any blame.
Breaking from his lovable loser niche, Pegg plays a smarmy hitman. When a sneering bar owner (Callan Mulvey) decides he would rather see his wife dead than with someone else, he calls in Charlie Wolfe. Soon, Charlie is bemused to find he’s not the only one slated to kill Alice (Alice Braga). After following the bumbling and befuddling attempts of a devious dentist (Sullivan Stapleton) and his snarling spouse (Teresa Palmer), Charlie finds himself in the midst of a bizarre web of crimes and recriminations that’s meant to be wacky and unpredictable, but is more nonsensical and aggravating.
Broken into three unwieldy chapters, “Kill Me Three Times” jumps around in its timeline, which — combined with its hitman anti-hero — inevitably draws comparisons to “Pulp Fiction.” But these only make this Aussie offering seem all the more like amateur hour.
Delivering just a handful of unconventional camera angles, director Kriv Stenders offers nothing in the way of style, energy or memorable moments that Quentin Tarantino did, and Charlie Wolfe is nowhere near as compelling or instantly iconic as Vincent Vega or Jules Winnfield. For one thing, Pegg — despite a skeezy mustache — lacks the swagger of John Travolta or Samuel L. Jackson. But more importantly, this sloppy script from James McFarland gives him too little in the way of cutting dialogue, badass bravado or killer action.
Instead, “Kill Me Three Times” spends much too much screen time with its thinly-sketched civilian characters. Aside from the fact that her husband beats her and she’s banging the local mechanic (played by the least-known Hemsworth, Luke), there’s nothing to know about Alice, who is the closest thing this movie has to a protagonist. Her husband Jack does nothing but glare and dole out slurred threats. Her lover, is handsome and briefly nude, but in all other ways unremarkable.
Palmer, who has repeatedly failed to launch in the U.S., does little more than pout, making her seem to be Australia’s answer to “Twilight”-era Kristen Stewart. Then there’s “300: Rise of an Empire” star Sullivan Stapleton, exhibiting all the charm of a burnt piece of toast, glumly fighting with his wife over diabolical plans that refuse to make sense no matter how many twists MacFarland frantically forces into the third act.
The only wisp of charm in this movie is Pegg. It’s exciting to see him take on a character so different from the Cornetto Trilogy crop of clueless screw-ups. Slim, with a smug smile and a darker ‘do, his hitman cuts a dapper figure as he casually strolls up on his prey with a massive gun at the ready. Regrettably, that’s about all he offers. This is not Charlie’s movie; he pops in here and there to add some character to an otherwise bland affair, but it’s not enough to save “Kill Me Three Times” from being a tedious hour and a half.
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