Writer/director Jon Hewitt takes to the streets of Kings Cross, Sydney, to plunge a low budget home ground thriller into the scungy world of street sex workers and back alley crimes. Pretty girls, dirty acts, low-rent bantering and street curb deals kick off a plot that pries open murder, on-the-run action and various tiers of the criminal underbelly.

The story pairs Holly (Viva Bianca), a veteran high price escort with Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) a down-on-her-luck newbie for a hotel threesome with a high paying client. Hiding in the bathroom after a knock on the door, the two witness their client being murdered and the dangerously unhinged killer chases them across the CBD.

Standard fare for a cross-city thriller but Hewitt pulls some tricks out of his sleeves, mostly in the zest dolloped onto the film’s aesthetics: there are unexpected split screens, pulsating moments of freneticism and a nicely judged midnight atmosphere that seeps into your consciousness like a poison gradually fouling the blood. Cinematographer Mark Pugh’s sharp lens juxtaposes the darkness of the city with the artificial brightness of its lights and surrounds.

There are a few clunky spots of dialogue and acting but the central performance from the fresh-faced Hanna Mangan Lawrence is particularly strong. Her character doesn’t succumb to the stereotypical bam-bam feminist revenge mode and nor is she, or the other female characters, represented purely as desperate victims. Victims of circumstance, perhaps, but that’s another kettle of fish, hinted at in the subtext that swelters below a battered and uncompromising narrative. X is a solid genre flick that bites down hard on its subject material and speaks loudly through gritted teeth.

X’s Australian theatrical release date: November 24, 2011. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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