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X: Night of Vengeance

Year: 2011
Production Co: Circe Films
Director: John Hewitt
Writer: John Hewitt/Belinda McClory
Cast: Viva Bianca, Hannah Mangan Lawrence

Someone decides to make a movie about prostitutes, but the decision to show them doing what prostitutes do is a completely separate creative approach. This pervy noir thriller set on the mean streets of Sydney over one fateful night has pretensions of class, but even though the set-up is something you'd expect from 70s grindhouse, a canny director can execute it any way he or she wants. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your taste and mood) the execution here gives into temptation and veers into the tone of a just such a pervy thriller.

It's from Aussie director Jon Hewitt, a modern exploitation auteur cut from the same cloth as Michael Winner or Dario Argento. In his films, women are eye candy to be paraded for the male gaze and then punished for the uncontrollable desires they generate, a very Catholic outlook of desire and guilt all twisted up in a repressed and dangerous psyche and one that can only end in violence, much of it directed at the female characters.

Though it's not as upsetting as the rape revenge slashers (I'll Never Die Alone, I Spit On Your Grave ) that leave you wanting to wipe your eye sockets out with bleach and kitchen scourers, you'll still feel slightly icky from having watched it.

It's about how two working girls from very different ends of the industry come together to escape the clutches of some very bad men. Holly (Viva Bianca) is very expensive and classy, but she's been in it long enough and tonight she's preparing to leave the game forever and go and live in Paris.

Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) is broke, stumbling around Kings Cross in denim shorts and letting sleazy old men talk her rates down for handjobs in their front seats, desperately stuffing McDonalds into her face when she gets some money and getting beaten up by a dimwitted skinhead pimp when she unwittingly encroaches on another girls' territory.

You wonder how their stories are related until Holly gets one last gig, one she needs another girl for. She happens upon Shay in the street, offers her the job for more money than Shay can hope to make otherwise, and they find themselves with a boorish playboy in a ritzy hotel.

Midway through the party he gets a call that his scary crime boss is coming around and bustles the girls into the bathroom, and when they witness his execution and only just escape with their lives, the chase ensues all over the inner city as the killer tries to track them down.

Hewitt doesn't exactly leer hungrily at the spectacle of women being mistreated, but he doesn't shy away form it either. The villain catches up with Holly and in the scenes of him forcing her to help him find Shay so he can do away with them both the camera doesn't hold back from him punching, kicking and slapping her repeatedly.

It ends on a pretty dour note that looked like it was more about the budget not allowing for a more explosive climax, but while it's a bit pervy and a bit leery, the story's interesting enough. Bianca is a more confident actress than Mangan Lawrence, and it's always fun to see the streets I grew up visiting (it's set in Kings Cross so yes, the perfect excuse for a scene in a strip club).

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