X: Night of Vengeance (18) / Director: Jon Hewitt / Screenplay: Jon Hewitt, Belinda McClory / Starring:Viva Bianca, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Peter Docker, Stephen Phillips / Release date: Out now (in selected UK cinemas), Feb 20th (DVD)
X (as it was known in the US) may take place on the streets of Sydney but the central characters could be in any inner city underbelly, anywhere in the world. The workers in the oldest profession have been the subject of many films over the years, but one thing is for sure, this is NO Pretty Woman.
Holly (Viva Bianca) has had enough of her job. She is paid well, does not have to work the streets but she is tired of the duplicity her chosen role has caused, pulling off her short, bobbed dark hair wig to reveal lovely long blonde locks, at 30 she is ready to hang up her thigh highs for a new life in Paris. Her work involves staging a live sex show for a group of middle aged high society women, who sit watching as if they are at a WI cake making demonstration, not even looking up to see their champagne glasses be re-filled. Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) on the other hand, is new to the streets, not all together comfortable with what she must do to get enough money to eat. The best she can hope for is to get paid for a quick hand job and not have the money taken from the local pimp and his crack whores.
After a slow build up the pair team up for what will be Holly's last job. Trouble is, things get out of hand when they become witnesses to a double cross drug deal and they spend the rest of the night running from a cop, Bennett (Stephen Phillips) who has murdered their client and now wants to do the same to them.
After the first half of sleaze, sex and grime, the ferocious second half comes as quite a jolt. Sure, earlier Shay is punched to the ground and threatened by the pimp, but that is nothing compared to what is to follow. While not as nasty and unrelenting as some films we've endured in the past year or so, it still packs quite a punch. The film is very dark, in more ways than one, since almost all the action, save for the opening and closing shots, take place at night, but that is not to say it uses the dark to hide in, we are exposed to the dirty, drug ridden underbelly of the inner city in a quite unflinching way.
Director/co-writer Jon Hewitt has come a long way since his 1992 début, the pretty damn awful vampire heist film, Bloodlust. Here, he has made a stylish but totally realistic view of the subject. At times the first half could be a fly on the wall documentary, with very little music used to lead the scenes and it works all the better for it.
X is more proof of the talent Australia has to offer at the moment, there have been several very good genre films come from down under in the past few years (Storage, The Tunnel, Snowtown) and you can add X to the list too. It is gritty and brutal at times, but once the pair become the pursued it hardly takes its foot of the pedal, right up to its sombre, quite downbeat but ultimately honest ending.