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Sex, Lies & Videotape

Bennet’s edgy Kiss or Kill shows there’s more to Down Under than Dundee and drag queens

Kiss or Kill is an amusing Ausie riff on a tried-and-true movie formula -- the couple that slays together, stays together. The plot may be one you've seen a million times before, but director Bill Bennett throws in enough sick wit to send it soaring above dross like Natural Born Killers, and Frances O'Connor and Matt Day (both of whom starred in the adorable Love and Other Catastrophes) have oodles more hard-boiled charm than Juliette Lewis and that guy from Cheers. The movie scores extra points for the brilliantly vile villain -- a football star and pedophile named Zipper Doyle.

O'Connor and Day play Nikki and Al, hipster hoodlums who make a living robbing traveling businessmen. Nikki gets tarted up and goes to smarmy lounges to scope out men with wedding rings and wandering eyes. After a few minutes of laughing demurely at their bad jokes and feigning interest in their dull careers, Al storms in and threatens Nikki just enough to give the businessman the chance to play the hero. The lech's ego thus inflated, Nikki follows him to his hotel, drugs him and then lets Al in to clean him out. One night, of course, things go awry and their victim dies. They grab his briefcase, which contains a videotape of Zipper molesting a young boy. A chase ensues across the Australian outback, with both Zipper and the cops on the rakish young lovers' tails.

Bennett has a way of refreshing even the most unbearable indie clichés. He uses the frantic hand held camera shooting style, for ex.ple, but gives it more edge by abruptly cutting in the middle of single shots In one scene, Zipper’s car gets stuck and one frame after we see him get out and slam the door, he’s back in the driver’s seat again. Very MTV, maybe, but somehow it works. And after the last few years' hordes of tiny Tarantinos, it’s quite a feat to make the barbed repartee between two cops sound c.pletely original. In one ingenious scene, one cop convinces his long-time partner that he's the Jewish son of spies that died in an airplane crash, that his brother's a mercenary in Zaire and that he has a wife and a daughter with cerebral palsy. "Why didn't you tell me?" his incredulous partner gasps. "You never asked," he deadpans.

As Al and Nikki flee through the desert, a trail of bodies follows them. Both deny responsibility for the killings, and the film becomes increasingly paranoid as each begins to doubt the other. Though the deus ex machina conclusion is too tidy and unconvincing, Al and Nikki are so endearing and the film is so clever in its own low-key way that minor plot holes are forgivable.


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rated r
104 minutes
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