Jan 24, 2012

X: Night of Vengeance [18]

Dir: Jon Hewitt
So, it's a film called X: Night of Vengeance. It's about two hookers (one about to retire, one just starting out) on the run from a killer who murdered their client, and set over a single night in Sydney's red light district. Well, that sounds promising; modern Ozspolitation, two beautiful women on a roaring rampage of revenge. That's what I thought, that's why I sat down. That's not what we got.

Let's start with this: X: Night of Vengeance is not a vengeance movie. The bigger problem? X: Night of Vengeance is not a good movie. At all. After the first half hour or so, X is absolutely relentless, and yet it's so incredibly straightforward, and so little fun, that it is massively dull. It has the cartoonish villainous bastards of an exploitation movie, but its female characters are blanks who either have to run away or be saved by men. It's dumb as a rock and completely heightened, but it can't reconcile that side of itself with director Jon Hewitt and co-writer Belinda McClory's pretensions to art and social commentary (both of which it botches anyway).

The tone is maddeningly confused. It starts out by being about 15 year street veteran Holly (Viva Bianca) finally quitting prostitution and moving to Paris on her 30th birthday, but the script then proceeds to kick Holly for the next 90 minutes, making her a punchbag for men and basically screaming at her that she's a whore and can't escape. The treatment of new arrival Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) is no better, she's another stereotype; a 17 year old runaway from a drug addled home, and the film is so keen to beat on her that it never, ever lets up on her character's abject misery, even though it's set on her first night in Sydney. I think we're supposed to see Holly as a strong woman, but she seems only to exist to soak up abuse, and neither she nor Shay are allowed to strike back (like they might have on, say, A NIGHT OF VENGEANCE), their most proactive strategy being running to men for protection.

There are no surprises. When Holly and Shay go to Holly's 'boyfriend' for help it's clear what's going to happen. When Holly seems to leave Shay in the lurch you KNOW she's coming back, the narrative ticks predictably by, and for all its pace, never once raises the pulse.

If the women fall into just one type; victims, the men fare somewhat better, there are a whole two kinds of men in X. Of the three male characters with any real screentime two are cartoon bastards and one is - I'm not making this up - a saintly cab driving magician who falls for Shay (he's played, really quite badly, by Eamon Farren). The worst performance in the film comes from Stephen Phillips, who all but foams at the mouth as lead villain Bennett, and spits lines like "I hate women" in between beating the shit out of Holly and Shay (he's not very nice). It's not as if the acting is ever much better than that though. Viva Bianca is lifeless and remote as Holly, which would be fine if it seemed to be a persona for her tricks, but she's the same throughout the film, and Hanna Mangan Lawrence is little better, though what can you expect when all they've been asked to play is an assortment of clich├ęs that needs rescuing a lot?

On the other hand, you have to give X: Night of Vengeance some credit; being boring and offensive is a hell of a trick.

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