Comedy thriller polarises critics

14 September, 2014 by Don Groves

Kriv Stenders' Kill Me Three Times may well have had a “boisterously enthusiastic reception” at its Toronto International Film Festival premiere, as The Sydney Morning Herald reported last week.

However the critics in Toronto were far from unanimous in their judgments on the comedy-thriller that stars Simon Pegg as an assassin who encounters a group of increasingly violent locals who carry their own dark secrets.


Sullivan Stapleton, Teresa Palmer, Callan Mulvey, Luke Hemsworth, Alice Braga and Bryan Brown co-star in the film scripted by James McFarland and produced by Laurence Malkin, Share Stallings, Tania Chambers. EOne, which will release the film in Australia next year, hasn’t revealed the launch date.

The pro- camp saw a very funny, cleverly plotted and crowd-pleasing film that subverts expectations.

The anti- brigade saw a mediocre, derivative crime potboiler.

Stenders and Chambers understandably are keen to stress the TIFF audiences’ reactions and the positive reviews. “TIFF was simply an exhilarating experience for us from soup to nuts,” Stenders tells IF. “There is undeniably a lot of love, excitement and interest in our movie, from critics, distributors and most importantly, the audience, who voted with their laughter. I think Kill Me Three Times delivers for all of them in spades.”

Chambers says, “We had an amazing time in Toronto and really enjoyed the positive response to the film.”

Among the most effusive reviews, HitFix’s Drew McWeeny opined, "Kill Me Three Times is a confident smaller film, and if you enjoy this sort of chess game with bullets, you'll probably get a kick out of it, and for Pegg fans, it's pretty much continuous pleasure throughout.”

The Film Stage’s Jared Mobarak said, “McFarland has crafted an exhilarating yarn that entertains in its construction thanks to multiple surprises, allegiance changes, and a whole lot of deceit.

“There’s a gloriously dark comic streak succeeding in large part due to the performances that lead us around Australia on a multi-tiered quest for vengeance…

“The escalating conflicts merely progress its subplots to deliver more laughs until you realize the whole thing is ultimately one big, infectious joke anyway.”

Moveable Feat's Stephen Saito found: “The film is cleverly plotted and a refreshing departure from the hardened, shadowy noir that Australia has become renowned for in recent years.

“Director Kriv Stenders keeps the story on track in spite of all its complications and adds a much needed dash of visual flair.

“While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it’s a breezy, crowdpleasing ride that coasts on the charm of its cast and well-honed scheming, something that fortunately for the audience’s sake, the characters aren’t capable of themselves despite their best laid plans.”

Among the naysayers, the Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney said, “This derivative smoothie appears to have been made by putting Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and the Coen Brothers into a blender along with Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths. The brash result squanders a talented cast, sharp visuals and spectacular locations on a grisly trail of mayhem that rarely yields much mirth.”

Rooney continued, “There’s nothing wrong with McFarland’s plotting, which is more than sound enough to work, especially with Stenders and editor Jill Bilcock hustling the action along at a driving pace, accelerated by Johnny Klimek’s music. But Kill Me Three Times is too self-conscious to be anything much beyond smart-assy and tiresome."

Crave Online’s Brian Formo said the film tries hard to be cheeky, likable and dark but is made insufferable by the overbearing musical score, concluding, “Even without the score, Kill Me Three Times would be a mediocre (at best) crime potboiler.”