Directed by Jon Hewitt
Starring Viva Bianca, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Stephen Phillips, Peter Docker
Review by Jordan
Sydney’s Kings Cross has long been regarded as Australia’s most notoriously seedy suburb; a sordid milieu where illegal and immoral affairs run rampant to a neon-lit, noise-polluted backdrop. It seems about time then, that a film showcasing this flip-side of the Lucky Country be embraced by underground and art-house cinema fans the world over, and with intoxicating direction by the skillful Jon Hewitt (Redball, Acolytes) and a pulse-pounding though exploitative energy X (AKA X: Night of Vengeance and Exit – A Night from Hell) might just be that film.
An artistic melding of the works of Gaspar Noe and Abel Ferrara, X takes the viewer on a night-long journey with 2 hookers, one on her “last night of the job” and the other a broke runaway immediately in out of her depth, who are shockingly pursued by a corrupt cop (Peter Docker) after they witnessed him murder their high-profile client. Holly (Viva Bianca) from the opening scene appears collected and in control, the perfect guide for 17 year old Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) as their future goals reduce from fleeing to Paris and unknown respectively, to simply surviving until morning. Noe’s inspiration is felt in nigh every angle of the camera and inter-lapping bright stream of color engulfing the screen, as well as the random acts of violence (a head bashing moment immediately hearkens back to that unforgettable fire-extinguisher usage in Irreversible) that punctuate proceedings, and the style of Ferrara, particularly his underrated Fear City, is eschewed through the plot and setting.
This may sound stereotypical and broad, but being an Australian thriller X does suffer from, well, being an Australian thriller. Local reviewers are wary of Screen Australia funding projects such as this as crime films have become commonplace and rarely are they now breaking new ground, especially with our scriptwriters etching dialogue that is far better suited to novels and not to the screen (this being a noticeable detractor in Shay’s early scenes). I can understand this debate, but believe that X is a substantial enough project to be viewed from a global perspective and not local, residing closer to the stressful ’90’s work of David Lynch (Lost Highway in particular) than TVs Underbelly (2008).
It should also be noted that while an amount of the explicit material here is warranted to push the narrative and establish the environment, there is a level of griminess some would feel stretches the artistic license too far and renders Hewitt’s film a pointless piece of exploitation and nothing more. There is a high use of lovingly realized split screen, a constantly overlapping sound-scape and a fine juxtaposition between a powerful and an aimless heroin; and in stating this it should be clear that obviously I’m a fan and feel these adult flourishes add to the whole and the overwhelming theme that we can never be in control of our surroundings, and as a result never truly in control of our lives.
Like the acts of violence throughout, X then concludes in an equally sudden fashion. In this world sometimes the only foreseeable solution to the culminating pressures and threats that surround us is a little bit of magic, and thanks to a kindhearted cab driver, the impossible may just eventuate for this lost teenager… let’s hope so anyway.