Kiss or Kill

Director: Bill Bennett

The winner of a slew of Australian Film Institute awards, Bill Bennett’s Kiss or Kill is a superior crime thriller about a couple of attractive young lovers on the run. Nikki (Frances O’Connor) and Al (Matt Day) are small-time scammers. When a routine job goes badly wrong, leaving a dead man in a hotel room, they head west across the barren Nullarbor Plain. The high-speed cross-country car journey becomes increasingly crazed as the corpses pile up and the pair begin to suspect each other of the inexplicable killings. As the police close in, Nikki and Al come to learn things about each other that they would rather they never knew.
Kiss or kill is imaginatively directed by Bennett, who enlivens this seemingly routine genre material with an improvisatory shooting style (the use of jump-cuts and hand-held camerework are reminiscent of Wong Kar-Wai’s work with Chris Doyle, though much more controlled and technically slick). Bennett has a distinguished background in documentaries, and here he manages to combine some astute social commentary with the king of action and suspense requirements of the commercial thriller. The key to the film is the notion that people don’t know each other as well as they think. It’s a theme Bennett explores with considerable aplomb. The seemingly cool and sexy couple have troubled backgrounds, which in the case of Nikki amounts to a major childhood trauma. Similarly, the villain of the piece is a former football hero turned sexual deviant. For all its visual flash and exciting action, Kiss or Kill remains at heart a tough modern noir.

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