(On Cable TV, November 2015) Chronologically-challenged crime comedies have been a sub-genre for almost two decades since Pulp Fiction popularized the form, and even the best examples of the genre still seem to labour under the shadow of Tarantino. But as with every sub-genre, it does have its specific pleasures to offer to fans. Australian effort Kill Me Three Times doesn’t re-invent anything, but it does play the game competently enough, and offers as a bonus Simon Pegg in an unusually villainous role. Much of the story is your genre-standard mix of vengeance, corrupt cops, murderous couples, coveted bags of money and characters left for dead. The story reboots three times, and the result doesn’t aim much higher than being a competent genre exercise. As such, your evaluation of Kill Me Three Times will hinge on your overall tolerance for such crime comedies and improbable plot twists. Fans will appreciate the result, what with its unusual Australian scenery and go-for-broke forward narrative rhythm: Director Kriv Stenders keeps things moving even when he’s rewinding to tells his story from another point of view. Simon Pegg clearly has fun playing the black-clad imperturbable assassin, while Alice Braga makes for a sympathetic damsel-in-distress. Otherwise, Kill Me Three Times fills up an unassuming evening of sunny Australian noir comedy. It could have been much, much worse.
(In theatres, March 2010) In a generous mood, I would probably praise Repo Men for its satiric vision of a future where synthetic organ transplants are common and expensive enough to warrant repo men going around repossessing deadbeats, leaving them, well, dead on the floor. I would congratulate Jude Law, Liev Schreiber and Forrest Whittaker for thankless roles playing unsympathetic characters and Alice Braga for something like a breakthrough role. I would say something clever about the film’s forthright carnographic nature. I may even have something affable to say about Eric Garcia, who sort-of-adapted his own novel for the screen (the story, as described in the book’s afterword, is far more complicated) and wrote one of the most bitterly depressing movie ending in recent memory. Heck, I would point out the numerous undisguised references to Toronto (where the movie was shot): the inverted TTC sign, the Eaton center complete with Indigo bookstore, the streetcars, even the traffic lights and suburban streets. But I am not in a generous mood, because Repo Men is an unpleasant and defective attempt at a satirical action SF film that fails at most of what it attempts. The characters are unlikable, their actions are despicable, the chuckles are faint and the Saw-inspired gory violence isn’t warranted by anything looking like thematic depth. It is a literally viscerally repulsive film, and even trying to play along the grim sardonic humour gets increasingly difficult to swallow during self-congratulatory action sequences. Once the film’s none-too-serious credentials are established, it’s hard to care –and that includes a wannabe-romantic sequence in which internal organs are exposed and fondled. The ending wants to be witty, but it just feels absurd before it is revealed to be cheaply cynical. The Science Fictional elements don’t even fit together and the result is a big bloody bore. Instead, just give me another shot of Repo: The Genetic Opera!: at least that film knew how to balance arch seriousness with a sense of camp. The irony is that Garcia’s novel is actually quite a bit better than the film –don’t let the adaptation scare you from a novel that does what the film wanted to do in a far more palatable fashion.