The neo-noir crime comedy "Kill Me Three Times" works overtime to seem unique and clever. The result, however, is a derivative, gimmicky, at times dizzying puzzle that fails to engage.
The film, divided into three overlapping, nonlinear segments, follows a dubious group of folks connected by blackmail, murder, revenge and a sloppy life-insurance scam. This circle includes gambling-addicted dentist Nathan (Sullivan Stapleton); his edgy receptionist-spouse, Lucy (Teresa Palmer); Lucy's cruel, bar-owner brother, Jack (Callan Mulvey); Jack's two-timing wife, Alice (a miscast Alice Braga); her hunky lover, Dylan (Luke Hemsworth); and the corrupt local cop (Bryan Brown) who's onto them all.
Then there's Charlie (Simon Pegg), a jaunty hit man who finds himself both participant and observer in the dastardly proceedings.
Director Kriv Stenders attempts to make sense out of the twisty, all-surface screenplay by James McFarland. But since it takes the film's entire first third to fathom who's who and what's what, Stenders is in constant catch-up mode. Meanwhile, as allegiances shift, blood spills and the body count rises, the soundtrack might as well be playing a constant loop of "Bad to the Bone" instead of all that "Pipeline"-inspired surf stuff.
Cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson makes the most of the movie's dazzling western Australia coastal setting, throwing in flashy camera angles for good measure. For some, though, the sleek look may only amplify the film's fatal case of style over substance.
"Kill Me Three Times"
MPAA rating: R for bloody violence, language, sexuality, nudity.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Playing: Landmark's Nuart, West Los Angeles. Also on VOD.