Thursday, 23 August 2012
X: NIGHT OF VENGEANCE ***½
Australia: Jon Hewitt, 2011
I became aware of this little Aussie exploitation film via Ben and Dan’s Mondo Movie podcast and made a mental note to seek it out. Having now had the chance to see the film I’m glad I took the trouble as it holds interest beyond the mere titillation of being a film about Sydney’s prostitutes.
Perhaps most obviously described as a ‘witness on the run’ movie – see Almodóvar's DARK HABITS or even the mainstream SISTER ACT for previous forays into this familiar premise – X: NIGHT OF VENGEANCE has a simple set-up in which Holly (Viva Bianca) and Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) witness a murder whilst on a job and their attempts to flee the murderer thereafter.
The obligatory scenes of nudity, violence and action akin to the genre are all present. However, where the film really excels is in its focus on the disparate experiences of these two sex workers both before and after their fatal meeting. Moreover, the two female leads are able to deliver dramatically engaging performances which energises the film beyond its sensationalist roots.
That’s not to say anything profound or of high artistic merit is achieved or aimed for by director and co-script writer Jon Hewitt. The plot is bound to a large degree to the ensuing chase. The supporting cast is rather bland. The photography is uneven: looking cheap and amateurish in some nocturnal exterior scenes and impressively stylistic in others – a particularly effective scene occurs when Shay is pursued through a nightclub, her pallid oval shaped face alight with bright red hues. Although the fact Hewitt, his DP Mark Pugh and editor Cindy Clarkson try to evoke the ghost of De Palma though use of split-screen (albeit lacking the sub-textual richness and geographical mastery of De Palma’s best work) only makes me look on this film’s merits all the more favourably.
The Count’s Verdict: X: NIGHT OF VENGEANCE is an exploitation movie which not only delivers in the T&A department it also invests you in the plight of its co-protagonists. The balance between being invited to ogle at the women as well as identify with their predicament may not be unproblematic but whatever the filmmakers’ intent they have certainly crafted a far better film than the poster suggests. See it!