X

***

Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

X quickly shows some cards by laying a pair down in its opening scenes. We are voyeurs to a group of affluent, coiffured Australian housewives, serenely sipping champagne while they eye a live sex show. It's just another well-paid job for glamourous escort Holly (Viva Bianca). She's experienced, high class and wants out. With a ticket to Paris in her bag, she only needs to escape her menacingly attentive boyfriend (Peter Docker).

In the rest of its hand, X has teenager Jay (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence), arriving in the city by bus. Alone, penniless and desperate, she nervously works the streets to earn some cash. Their two lives cross when Holly picks Jay up for a 2:1 session, but when the drug-talc'd affair turns violent they end up running. Holly wants to get to the airport, Jay just wants to stay alive.

Writers Jon Hewitt and Belinda McClory chalk out a fine line between seedy entertainment and social commentary - and then stomp all over it as their slick film embraces the urban sleaze as much as holding it up for judgement. This polarisation starkly bookends the film, with the direct-to-camera address of the final scene contrasting with the privileged gawping of the first. It’s a bumpy ride in between, though, and the balance is imperfectly struck. While the streets and plush apartments ooze menace and jeopardy pervades, the glamorising of strip clubs, sex and prostitution means the film revels in the vice a bit too much to keep face.

Still, the clear Ozploitation leanings keep things grim and Hewitt (also directing) stages some taut flee and chase sequences. He also makes effective use of the cityscape, with both close up backgrounds and big horizons glittering with artificial light around the coolly lit cast, reminiscent of Mann’s Collateral. Bianca and Mangan-Lawrence complement him by giving excellent performances. The plot, however, breaks the spell by turning on luck and coincidences a time too many.

The narrative uses its exploitation roots to squarely put patriarchal society squarely its sights. Most men personify the worst of male attitudes to sex workers, and women in general, and savagely misogynistic treatment is meted out to Holly and Jay with brutal relish. On the other hand, Jay meets a gentle white knight in Eamon Farren's taxi driver-cum-magician. The incongruity of both this and their scenes is too jarring, but it does texture the world the women inhabit.

Having followed the pair through their awful night, the harsh moral seems to be that it’s up to men to rescue women from the situations men are forcing women into. Perhaps, but its a resolution that gives depressingly little credit to its fighting protagonists.

Reviewed on: 15 Oct 2011
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Two women experience one ugly night that will change their lives together.
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Director: Jon Hewitt

Writer: Jon Hewitt, Belinda McClory

Starring: Viva Bianca, Hanna Mangan-Lawrence, Peter Docker, Eamon Farren, Wayne Blair

Year: 2011

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: Australia

Festivals:

Raindance 2011

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