Kiss or Kill

Gambit Weekly

DIRECTED BY: Bill Bennett

REVIEWED: 12-15-97

Writer/director Bill Bennett's Kiss or Kill is a kicky Australian noir about a couple of two-bit scam artists who head for the Outback when one of their marks ends up dead. A wild brunette named Nikki Davies (Frances O'Connor) lures men to a hotel room and drugs them so she and her boyfriend, Al Fletcher (Matt Day), can rob them. But then Nikki overdoes it one night, and a guy croaks. Moreover, he croaks with a kiddie porn videotape in his briefcase that shows the country's most famous football star sexually involved with a young boy. Our heroes (if you can call them that) don't even know what they've got. But pretty quickly, Zipper Doyle (Barry Langrishe) is as anxious to catch them as the cops are.

Kiss or Kill doesn't break any new ground. It moves Al and Nikki from place to place one jump ahead of their pursuers. And it does what noir commonly does; namely, it turns the criminals on each other. The spin here is that even though Al and Nikki are bad and even though they start suspecting each other of worse things than either is guilty of, they keep on loving each other. That both fuels their potential redemption and keeps them from just running off in opposite directions.

Occasionally Bennett gases his plot by having Al and Nikki behave in stupid ways. They throw the dead man's wallet and credit cards out the window of their fleeing car, for instance, thereby leaving a trail the cops can follow. And Bennett employs that aggravating jump-cut style of editing that was hip when Jean-Luc Godard did it four decades ago in Breathless and which shouldn't have been employed even once since then. It's cheaper, no doubt, but it sure is annoying.

On the whole, though, Kiss or Kill delivers a decent return on your entertainment buck. The picture is frequently funny, and Bennett peoples the outlaws' path with an array of interestingly quirky characters. He also makes great use of Australia's vast emptiness as a metaphor for his characters' lives. You won't believe this movie, but you should enjoy it.

--Rick Barton

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