An amiable small town crime comedy with a supernatural twist, this has a particularly low-key, flippant New Zealand sense of humour – everyone’s laid-back, even when committing robbery and murder, and only the spoilsport villain is even irritated by the way his minions shamble through their day as if their minds were somewhere else.
In arse end of nowhere town Thames, John (Anton Tennet), a not-too-bright kid, is one of a crew of layabouts who serve as minions to Shelton (Johnny Brugh), a crime boss from reputed big city Hamilton. With his even more feckless made Gaz (Arlo Gibson), the sort of clod who writes ‘DO’ and ‘PE’ on his shoes but doesn’t think what that’ll say if he crosses his legs, John heists a local antique store for a wheel full of Triad money – planning on double-crossing Shelton, though Gaz pre-emptively double-crosses John – and impulsively snatches a magic bracelet from Wah Leee (Tian Tan), who warns him he’ll want to return it. When he’s being pursued by the rest of Shelton’s gang, John activates the bracelet and loops back in time – which means a) he can save himself and b) there are two of him. He exploits the gadget to pull off a low-yield bank robbery, incidentally generating a third John – and since all of him have the same instincts, he soon has his own gang of duplicates (the Mega Time Squad) and can go up against his old boss, intent on getting the stolen money for himself/themselves and hooking up with Shelton’s wry, wise sister Kelly (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn).
Writer-director Tim van Dammen plays the switcheroo game cleverly, and pulls off Multiplicity-like sequences with the MTS invading Shelton’s suburban lair and confusing the mastermind as he tracks the home invasion on his in-house CCTV. The film is on slightly less steady ground when the fission leads to arguments between incarnations of the protagonist, proving that this lad can’t even trust himself – with one splinter becoming more ruthless and money-grubbing, and another more romantic and self-sacrificing. In theory, a demon is coming to punish the abuser of the bracelet – but, as it turns out, the demon comes from the inside, and then the climax sidelines the whole premise to play another game as John confronts the villain and makes his old gang see that they’ve been exploited and abused and ought to side with him against the grumpy, self-important crook. The pack of not-very-fearsome crooks are all neatly sketched – they have to borrow cars and guns from their mums, spend most of their time sitting around on sofas, and tend to receive minor (and major) injuries in the crossfire … though the film occasionally darkens to throw in some splatter.