By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The footprints of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers are so prominent and pronounced throughout Kill Me Three Times, Kriv Stenders could easily have titled his stylized crime thriller “Bloody Simple Pulpy Fiction.”

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Kill Me Three Times puts a gaggle of amoral, deceitful characters under the movie microscope with a sick smile on its face thanks initially to the presence of comedy icon Simon Pegg in a movie that is far too fixated on grotesquely bloody occurrences to be a pure comedy.

With murder, blackmail, and revenge on the menu, there’s nothing pure about any of it.

(2½ stars out of 4)

(2½ stars out of 4)

Pegg, the first among ensemble equals, plays a professional hit man, a Brit named Charlie Wolfe, hired by a wealthy Australian client to kill his unfaithful wife.

But this lone-wolfe assassin quickly realizes, to his everlasting bemusement and satisfaction, that he’s far from the only one in the scenic, sun-drenched beach town of Eagles Nest, in western Australia, with murder on his or her mind.

There is not only his angry client, bar owner Jack Taylor (Callan Mulvey), but his abused wife, Alice (Alice Braga); Nathan Webb (Sullicab Stapleton), the dentist with a gambling addiction, and his demanding receptionist wife Lucy (Teresa Palmer), who just happens to be Jack’s sister; Alice’s mechanic boyfriend Dylan (Luke Hemsworth); and even corrupt cop Bruce Jones (Bryan Brown).

Observing these devious scammers from a distance, cold-blooded Charlie thinks he sees a way not only to have them do much of his dirty work for him, but perhaps a way to dramatically increase his already considerable fee.

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Director Stenders (Dark Frontier, Red Dog) brings a perverse dark-humor streak to the grisly goings-on that doesn’t always prepare us for the level of cartoonish (but still graphic and blood-spurting) violence, but does distance us from the material just enough to keep things palatable.

The script, by first-timer James McFarland, is a puzzle that eventually solves itself, as the gradually revealed story is divided into three overlapping, time-shifting chapters -– “Kill Me Once,” “Kill Me Twice,” and “Kill Me Three Times” –- each from a different point of view, doubling back on itself when it needs to, and complicating the situation even as it clarifies it for us.

But the wrapup does manage to untie all the narrative knots and click all the gears into place in a clever and satisfying way that makes us happy to have remained aboard.

So we’ll arrange the murder of 2½ stars out of 4 for the twisty and nasty neo-noir thriller, Kill Me Three Times.

If you can handle the bloody violence that earned the film its “R” rating, chances are you’ll be too intrigued and entertained to find yourself muttering the title under your breath.

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