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X (2011)

X Director: Jon Hewitt
Starring: Viva Bianca, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Eamon Farren, Wayne Blair, Peter Docker

Holly (Viva Bianca) is a high class call girl working in Sydney and is about to retire to Paris when takes on one last job where she needs a partner for a threesome and just happens to find Shay (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) walking the streets by chance and invites her along to make some extra money.

Things don't turn out so well when their client is killed and they have to flee for their lives with the killer on their trail. The killer finds Holly easily by checking his victim's mobile phone, but does not know where to find the other woman.

Many cheers from the audience when Holly fights back and knocks out the killer, but she is soon caught again by the killer who should have least got concussion from the last attack and he handcuffs Holly to the car console and drives around looking for the other girl.

Around this time Shay is having a chat with the taxi driver who dropped them off at the job earlier, Harry (Eamon Farren) and he is clearly interested in her, but she is not so sure. Shay then goes to a cheap hotel for the night, but doesn't get much rest and is out on the street again and chased after by the killer, being rescued by Holly and the two try to get the whole thing sorted out once and for all.

There was a Q&A with the director, producer, writer and two lead actors and I will try to remember what I can for this review also.

The story is based in the last remaining section of the "old" Kings Cross with the strip clubs that if it is anything like St Kilda in Melbourne, has been gentrified and replaced with expensive apartments and backpacker accommodation. The film makers live the area and filmed for 20 days of almost exclusively night shoots except for one day of shooting in Showgirls strip club. I do remember the director in an interview saying that they did not have permits to shoot at night so it got a bit hairy at times.

As the director said the subject of the film is about having sex for money and if he sees another film with two people fucking in bed and then they get up and they have their underwear on he is going to kill someone.

There is always an element of fantasy in movies, but the characters in this film do feel a lot more realistic and easier to relate to than a film such as the recent Sleeping Beauty that supposedly was based in the sex industry, but was actually nothing like it.

Viva and Hanna were asked how they researched for their roles. Via replied that the director took her on a tour of strip joints, brothels and interviewing sex workers and Hanna did not do as such as it was meant to be her first night on the street so it was not needed as much.

The usual tiresome feminist related questions were asked that I don't quite remember but the writer replied that the movie is quite feminist in that it has two strong female leads, which does not happen often in Australian film.

Another question that I am struggling to even think why someone would ask was if the actresses felt uncomfortable about nudity or the sex scenes, they wouldn't have done the movie if they didn't read the script first and everything is planned and professional.

There was a question about if any of the movie was shot in reverse, to which the direct replied that they did try and film the two leads walking in reverse through the strip club and them play it forwards, but they could not get it to work out. They did still use a bit of the footage though.

I did enjoy the anecdote about the crew working with the strippers and how they were happy to just stand around in the nude, where the crew was a bit uptight about it. Australian Penthouse Pet of the Month 2011, Bea was in the movie for a brief cameo along with some other real life strippers.

I enjoyed the question about what surprised the film makers about what surprised them in making the film. Writer Belinda McClory said it was finding Viva as she was perfect for the role. Viva herself said that she always takes something of the character away with her and Holly was a lot braver than she is herself. Hanna's story was funny about her finishing her filming, having three bags of chips and then having to film one more scene at 3am in a toilet. She also mentioned that she lives just up the road in Darlinghurst, but she didn't notice all the people hanging around the area and everyone watching until they started filming the movie.

As for the rest of the film, it does have its roots in the exploitation genre and there is plenty of tits and arse and a sex scene within the first five minutes, but the rest of it is also quite good including the chase scenes and the stunts by Grant Page were also good.

Viva Bianca as Holly was great and a really believable character with the relationships she has with other working ladies realistically portrayed. Holly does get to do some fighting back of her own during the film and this was very well liked by the audience in the screening.

Hanna Mangan Lawrence as Shay is just as good and does look really young on screen, being vulnerable in some scenes like when she gets punched in the face by some junkies and then tough when she helps one of them shoot up in a sleazy hotel room. The scene with her first customer in the car was hard to watch as it was so sleazy.

The other characters were OK, but we just don't get to see as much of them in the movie. Some of the secondary characters on the street seemed realistic and actually using some people who were just doing their normal jobs in roles helped add to this.

The rest of the production does hold up well, strangely enough it does not have any of the Australian band X on the soundtrack although that might have been a bit too obvious, they could have made it work and I could think of a couple of scenes that would have benefited from a couple of songs.

I don't know how this movie is going to go in the box office with Red Dog and some other big movies now out in the market place, but it does have US distribution and should go well on DVD.

I would recommend this movie if you are a fan of crime thrillers and want something a bit different than the usual Underbelly treatment of the topic.

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