On stage at the Toronto Film Festival to present the world premiere of Kriv Stenders’ Kill Me Three Times, Simon Pegg admitted he was on a whirlwind trip from the set of Mission Impossible 5 in Morocco, and could only be there for the film’s introduction, as he was busy with another comedic film, Hector and The Search for Happiness. In the latter film, which releases in Australia in October, he is a perennially cheery psychiatrist, whereas in Kill Me Three Times he is a cunning heartless private investigator/hitman.
“This was an extraordinarily fun film to make," Pegg told the TIFF crowd ahead of the screening. "I had a great time and it was wonderful to go to Western Australia and work with this fantastic bunch of wonderful Aussies. My God they are the salt of the earth, I can tell you! It was fun and I think it’s all up there on the screen. Let’s have a round of applause for Kriv. His love of the medium is very evident. It’s great to work with people who are passionate about film.”
Starting with punchy credits and thumping music, Kill Me Three Times offers three versions of the same story, backfilling additional details and agendas with each retelling. In creating his comedy action “smorgasboard”, Stenders admitted to being influenced by Stephen Frears’ The Hit, The Coens' Blood Simple and Tarantino in general. “Hopefully we’ve done something different that can stand on its own,” he said.
Sullivan Stapleton wasn't in Toronto for the film or for his other festival entry, Tony Ayres' Cut Snake. In Kill Me Three Times, the burly warrior from 300: Rise of an Empire and the TV series Strike Back plays a bespectacled dentist with a huge gambling problem. He’s also Teresa Palmer’s onscreen husband.
Teresa Palmer, who Stenders calls “the most beautiful luminous actress I’ve worked with,” has a pivotal role. “I’ve done absolutely nothing like this before,” she said. “It was so fun to just sink my teeth into such an awful human being and it was a really beautiful contrast for me at the time because I actually shot the film when I was six months pregnant. So it was just a funny time in my life to come and do such a gritty character. The screenplay was really compelling.”
A super buff Luke Hemsworth (also on Australian screens in The Reckoning) takes a leaf from his brother Chris’s Thor handbook, and plays the love of Alice Braga’s life. Unfortunately, she is married to a thug played by Callan Mulvey, who I really hope finds a more sympathetic role sometime soon. He was also in 300 with Stapleton.
A bit like Adoration (a.k.a. Adore), the film uses an amalgam of locations to create the idyllic beach setting where the action unfurls. Here it’s Western Australia and Screen West put up a lot of the cash. Cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson's sun-punched images are top notch.
Most of the characters have stunning blue eyes to go with the sea, though Simon Pegg’s baddie offers a great contrast with his dark apparel.
The comedic thriller was written by James McFarland and produced by Tania Chambers, Laurence Malkin and Share Stallings, who had produced Stephan Elliot’s A Few Best Men and both versions of Death At A Funeral (Frank Oz's original and Neil LaBute’s US remake). The silly tone is not so different here.
The response to the film from the Toronto crowd was respectful though muted. Critical reviews are yet to surface.