More proof, as if it were needed after last year’s Snowtown and Sleeping Beauty, that the Australian male is a thoroughly despicable, nasty piece of work, Jon Hewitt’s X: Night Of Vengeance takes the Pretty Woman fairytale life of a hooker up a dark alley and beats it until it’s raw and bloody.
More proof, as
if it were needed after last year’s Snowtown and Sleeping Beauty, that the
Australian male is a thoroughly despicable, nasty piece of work, Jon Hewitt’s X:
Night Of Vengeance takes the Pretty Woman fairytale life of a hooker up a dark
alley and beats it until it’s raw and bloody. Graphic, brutal and gritty, it’s a
dark, edgy thriller that somehow manages to be sexy and provocative at the same
time as being uncompromisingly bleak.
Beautiful, elegant and poised, high-class call girl Holly (Viva Bianca) made herself a vow that
she’d quit the life by 30 and move to Paris. Today is her 30th birthday, she’s said her
goodbyes, her bags are packed and she’s got a strictly one-way ticket to Paris
in her handbag. All she has to do
is make it through one last night on the job.
For vulnerable 17-year-old runaway Shay (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence) it’s her
first night on the mean streets of Sydney’s Kings Cross. Homeless, hungry and inexperienced, she
sells herself for $20 a pop to the kerb crawlers who prowl the red light
Fate throws the two women together when Holly needs a second
girl for her last job and impulsively recruits the young streetwalker. It’s an easy gig, partying with a
coked-up, big-spending criminal.
But the fun comes to an abrupt end when the girls witness the crook’s
murder at the hands of business partner and corrupt cop Bennett (Stephen Phillips). Escaping into the vicious, dangerous,
neon-splashed twilight world of Sydney’s sleazy underbelly, hunted by a
relentless killer, the girls are going to have to rely on each other if they’re
going to survive the night…
Opening with a frank scene of almost clinical eroticism
which will confirm most men’s fears of what actually goes on at all those
Tupperware and Ann Summers parties (Holly and a handsome young man-whore put on
a show for a coffee morning of middle class hausfraus), the film thrusts the
audience straight into the sordid glamour of jaded escort Holly’s life. Focused and driven, she’s on the verge
of escaping the business and realising her dream life. At the other end of the spectrum is the
teenage Shay; a desperate innocent who reminds Holly of the girl she used to
be. With a minimum of elapsed
screen-time, Hewitt and co-writer McClory
(who also appears as Holly’s friend and mentor) deftly give us two heroines we
actually come to know and like before putting them through hell.
And the world X:
Night Of Vengeance depicts is a hellish one, peopled by hookers, junkies
and hustlers. It’s a world of
corruption and depravity, of seedy strip bars and pay-by-the-hour hotels. Predatory street scum prey on the weak,
callous johns exploit young girls for sex, the cops are killers. The film is suffused with a growing
sense of dread, from the moment you learn of Holly’s intention to retire, you
know it’s going to end in tears.
Packed with explicit and, at times, gratuitous nudity, X: Night Of Vengeance simmers with a
carnality that always threatens to tip over into brutality. When the film finally explodes into
violence it’s almost a relief, killer cop Bennett’s viciousness and rampant
misogyny the seemingly logical end result of the commodification of sex. Hewitt never eases up on the intensity,
never allows the film’s salacious subject matter to undercut the suspense or
detract from the plight of his heroines.
As the older, wiser Holly, Spartacus: Blood and Sand’s Viva Bianca is terrific; a tough,
no-nonsense operator, she’s no hooker with a heart of gold. She’s a survivor, forced against her
will and against her own nature into caring for and protecting the younger
Shay, Bianca’s glacial beauty and calculating intelligence lending Holly an
ambiguity to match her steel and decency.
Similarly, Hanna Mangan-Lawrence’s Shay is no helpless damsel in distress. Young and inexperienced, Shay’s
innocence masks her own gritty determination to survive and Mangan-Lawrence’s
fragility and fearlessness make Shay a heroine to root for. Both these women may be victimised but
Bianca and Mangan-Lawrence aren’t playing victims; they’re playing women
battling their diminishing options, trying to take control of their own
destinies. As virtually the only
decent man in the film Eamon Farren
is sweet and winning as the taxi driver and wannabe magician who may offer an alternative
future to the novice Shay while Peter
Docker and Stephen Phillips lend
menace as Holly’s boyfriend/punter and murderous cop Bennett.
Smart, violent and sexy with a real propulsive drive and
boasting two fantastic central performances, X: Night Of Vengeance is a breathless odyssey through Sydney’s