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aka - X: Night Of Vengeance
Australia 2011
Directed by
Jon Hewitt
86 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
2 stars


Synopsis: Holly (Viva Bianca) is a high class escort, about to exit the industry and head to Paris. Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) is a young teen runaway whose mother has died and who arrives in King’s Cross trying to get some money by selling her charms. When the two women’s lives intersect, a job goes horribly wrong and they are forced to run for their lives.

Described as a “high octane erotic thriller”, X is part of a proposed trilogy of “red light” films. Its major strength is its cinematography, courtesy of DOP Mark Pugh, who creates an impressively handsome film, ironically so, given the sleaziness of its setting, Sydney's infamous King Cross where director Hewitt has lived for more than a decade. Like its reputation it looks titillating, sleazy, sad, and, most of all, grungily dark. We get plenty of evocative shots of desperate women under street lights as gutter-crawling cars trawl the flesh on offer and prismatic neon lights illuminate the despair.

However, whilst visually impressive, for me the film fails epically in its writing. It starts intriguingly, with a particularly explicit scene in which Holly puts on a live sex show for a group of upper class champagne-sipping women.  I had hopes for a possibly off-centre kinky film with an intelligent difference such as this year’s Sleeping Beauty. Even the arrival of a sweet young teen trying to get by could have brought some insights into life on the streets. But once the two women team up for a job in a hotel, only to fall foul of a particularly sadistic crim, X becomes stock-standard in its ideas.

Bianca certainly plays her role well, with oodles of sexiness, whilst Lawrence mixes enough vulnerability with a tendency to sluttiness as Shay. The men are mostly out of the same mould – rough, tough, some disguised in suits – but all bastards. Peter Docker stands out as Ligurian, a man who dreams of taking Holly away from it all. Shane Bennett is suitably psychopathic as Bennet, the women’s pursuer, while Eamon Farren gives us the only ray of male empathy – a young taxi driver who is also a magician, and who falls for Shay.

But what I really find most questionable about this film is the sheer exploitative nature of the many gratuitous shots of naked, Brazilian-waxed women. I’m all for a good dose of full frontal, but in this film the self-consciousness of it, both male and female, just doesn’t blend with the narrative. The teaming of the two women doesn’t ring true for me. As for the many scenes of violence – what was the make-up artist thinking? If a bloke gets repeatedly belted in the face with a suitcase, or a woman backhanded several times, won’t there be more than a cut eyebrow or split lip?  

When Hewitt's film works it provides a realistically depressing vision of lowest common denominator life – one especially harrowing scene of junkies in the hotel room had me recoiling. The film’s intriguing final line also indicates that something much more could have been made of this story. But when a director can’t seem to decide between arthouse or soft porn, X does not mark the spot.




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