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Film Criticism by David O'Connell

Kiss or Kill

September 19th 2008 03:58
Bill Bennett’s classic Australian road movie from 1997 was critically acclaimed upon its release and made great strides into staking out modern noir territory as well.

Making a star of Frances O’Connor before Hollywood discovered her, Bennett tells the tale of two young lovers and crims whose con game of choice is to utilize the femme fatale allure of Nicki Davies (O’Connor) on sordid, rich businessmen in motel rooms, whilst Al Fletcher (Matt Day) waits in the wings to pounce once they're drugged.

Their trouble begins when one of their targets is later discovered dead, and the couple are forced to flee with a piece of incriminating video tape in their possession showing the illegal exploits of a famous footy star, Zipper Doyle (Barry Langrishe) and his penchant for underage 'companions'.

Nicki and Al are soon being tracked by both the police and the furious Zipper, their adventures along the barren highways of the countryside leaving another body or two in their wake as well.

This leads the couple down a slippery slope of suspicion as to whether one or the other is really a killer in disguise or they’re simply being plagued by a run of cruelest luck.

One of the things I love most about this film is its roughness - it has a dirty, gritty feel to it in visual and aesthetic terms with jump cuts and noirish edges. It doesn’t pretend to be a streamlined, highly polished piece of A-grade cinema, and yet it works on every level because of its lack of pretensions.

The wide open spaces and remoteness of the rugged environment are captured with the toned-down hues of Malcolm McCullogh’s exceptional cinematography.

Another interesting stylistic choice by Bennett was to leave the film without any score whatsoever and surprisingly (for a film music aficionado like myself) I have to admit that it works in the film’s favour.

Director Bill Bennett, who sadly hasn't made a film since 2002's The Nugget with Eric Bana

This was a great breakthrough and calling card for Bennett, as a writer and director, and soon saw him lured by the almighty dollar to Hollywood where he made the highly undervalued, but sadly unseen, steamy, Louisiana-set, modern noir Tempted (with an intoxicating performance by Saffron Burrows!).

He draws great performances out of O’Connor and Day for Kiss or Kill, with O’Connor’s star on the verge of shining and Day already embedded in the public's consciousness through his role in Murial’s Wedding three years earlier. (The following year he made another very underrated local film I liked a lot in Doing Time for Patsy Cline.)

Industry stalwart Chris Haywood and Andrew S. Gilbert are amusing diversions as the cops on the lovers’ tails, and provide the funniest moment in the film during a breakfast scene in a diner. It involves the subject of bacon and had me clutching my sides and staggering about the room the first time I saw it; it was almost as funny this time around too, a classic wordless punchline which is worth the wait!

Kiss or Kill was nominated for 11 AFI Awards in its year, winning 5 including Best Film and Best Director. Over a decade later it still appeals as one of the most interesting Australian films of the ‘90’s and one I always highly recommend to people


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1 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by Cibbuano

September 22nd 2008 03:08
Done! I'll try to find it. It sounds great, and that leading lady is a knockout!

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