Synopsis: Holly Rowe`s retiring, kissing her call girl life goodbye. She just has to get through her last night on the job. Shay Ryan`s a teenage runaway, broke and alone. She just has to get through her first night as a hooker. Then fate throws them together on a job that goes horribly wrong and they’re suddenly racing on an out-of-control roller coaster ride, through Sydney`s criminal underworld. X is a sizzling thriller about love, chance, escape and the oldest profession experienced by two women on a night that will change their lives forever.
eyelights: the direction. the ending. its energetic soundtrack.
eyesores: the loudness of the soundtrack.
“I want you to make me disappear”
‘X’ is an Australian thriller about two prostitutes who were witnesses to a murder and are being hunted down by the killer. It shows two different perspectives on the working girl life: the first being a high-end call girl who lives well and is getting ready to leave it all behind her, and the second being a young teenager who comes to the big city with no money and ends up prostituting herself to survive.
I had seen the DVD on the local store’s shelves for months but couldn’t be bothered to pick it up; its title and accompanying artwork were discrepant with the story, which suggested that they were chosen strictly as selling points. This made me distrust the filmmakers’ intention: I figured that they were simply using the salacious subject to draw viewers and, thus, that the content wouldn’t be up to snuff.
I was actually quite wrong in this assumption.
I wound up with the DVD in my grubby little hands because I found it in a second-hand shop for dirt cheap. Since I was careening towards a short set of films relating to prostitution, I thought that it might be advantageous to pad my set with something new and unexpected. I had fairly low expectations still, but at least I was receptive to the film – knowing full well that if it was garbage I could make my money back.
‘X’ starts off by setting the stage, introducing us to Holly Rowe picking up one of her colleagues on the way to a sex show that she is doing for a handful of rich women. I found this part quite intriguing because I’ve never heard of such a thing, but could imagine that it was possible: men and women alike are voyeurs and are curious about sex. Watching people have sex would naturally intrigue certain people.
But the idea that this sort of act would be taken outside of seedy joints and offered discretely in higher social strata was something I hadn’t really considered. I can easily imagine rich men paying for expensive call girls, but seeing a group of women gather to watch a man and woman have intercourse was something unexpected. It was appealing to some degree and also made me think about my preconceived notions.
We then get to know Shay Ryan, a 16 year-old teenaged girl who has either run away from or has been forced to leave home. She is clearly ill-equipped to survive on her own, having packed precious little as far as clothing or anything else. She has an extremely limited amount of money to her name and it soon runs out, so she does what she can to doll herself up and then turns to the sidewalk to make a quick buck.
From this point onward we see her on a downhill slope, upsetting a john with her lack of experience, getting into turf wars with another prostitute, being beaten up, crossing paths with a down-and-out younger girl who’s mired in the life, being preyed upon by a motel clerk, ..etc. She soon discovers that everyone is out for themselves and that it’s easy to be a victim.
And that’s before she gets picked up by Holly for a quick threesome with one of her rich clients! From the moment that the two meet, after they decide to join forces to make a quick fortune, just before Holly can escape her life and Shay can get settled in hers, they soon find themselves in some pretty serious danger and end up on the run, trying to escape a brutal killer.
That’s when ‘X’ dials up the tension and energy and takes us on a non-stop thrill-ride. While the concept may seem somewhat mundane (it’s hardly anything new), it’s actually an exciting ride, most of it feeling realistic enough, given the context. At no point did I disconnect or disbelieve, even though there are some plot elements that are difficult to accept to some extent.
The performances were all very solid. I found the whole cast credible and perfectly suited for their respective parts. Hanna Mangan Lawrence seemed slightly wet behind the ears, but she looked the part and did a decent job of making Shay feel real. Meanwhile, Viva Bianca convinced me that Holly was resilient, intelligent and implacable; despite all that happens to her I bought into her ability to carry on.
‘X’ was co-produced in conjunction with the Australian government, which surprised me. I keep thinking that, at least in North America, this type of production would be vetoed. Then again, there is always ‘Young People Fucking‘, proving otherwise. Anyway, this at least afforded the filmmakers the budget to make the film look and sound good – at no point did it look cheap or like a TV movie, which was nice.
In particular the audio impressed me. There were a few moments that were quite vibrant, more so than I would have expected for this sort of film, quite honestly. Having said this, it got perhaps a little too loud in some moments, which made me feel very self-conscious with respect to the neighbours. It was realistic, and thankfully it wasn’t embarrassing, but it’s something that left an impression.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
Another thing that I really enjoyed was the way that it ended. It had Shay trying to find solace in a friend that she’s falling for, a cab driver, and asking him to make her disappear – while breaking the fourth wall.
It was first and foremost a plea to get her out of her mess, but it was also a way for her to express how much she wanted to escape her life, how trapped she felt in it; it was completely in character given where she had come from.
Bonus points for that.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
Basically, ‘X’ is far better than any motion picture with such a title has any right to be. It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it was solid through and through, making it a perfect way to kill 90 minutes late at night. It’s a darned shame that they picked that title and marketed it the way that they did, because it really isn’t suited to the material; not only would it be a put-off for some, it would be a disappointment for others.
But with adjusted expectations, ‘X’ hits the spot.
Date of viewing: August 18, 2013