Monday, July 30, 2012

Movie – X (2011)

The 2011 film X seems to be labeled as an “erotic thriller” in almost every description I’ve read of it.  My guess is that the marketing folks figured sex sells and this would be the best way to attract attention to it.  The fact that some reviewers have re-used this term makes me wonder if they watched more than the first ten minutes of it, or if they have gotten so jaded about violence that the only thing that stood out for them was the opening sex scene.  In my opinion, anyone watching this film hoping for titillation will be mostly disappointed.  It’s a dark, violent look at the underworld in an Australian city.

The movie focuses on two women:  Holly Rowe (Viva Bianca) is a 30ish high class prostitute who makes a very good living catering to rich clients, including the middle-aged women who are watching the live sex show she has arranged in the film’s opening scene.  Shay Ryan (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) is a teenage girl who has just arrived in the city with nothing but what she has in her one bag.  As the film goes on both of them end up experiencing the proverbial “night from hell”.

Shay is not the typical country girl who comes to the big city full of dreams.  That girl spends time looking for jobs, losing hope over time, and eventually turning to dancing or prostitution (in the movie cliché).  Shay is not naïve or helpless.  In fact, she’s a girl with a plan and she takes charge of her situation.  There’s no montage of her trying other things first.  Instead, she gets off the bus in the city, goes to the bathroom, changes into some clothes that show her body off and she hits the streets.  She is wary of the johns who approach her, but she hasn’t realized her biggest danger is her own business competitors.  These women don’t like her horning in on their territory and they let her know it.

Meanwhile, Holly has been saving money for years.  She is going to be getting out of the business and moving to Paris.  She just has one last job to do for a rich client and then she will be on a plane out of there.  Anyone who has seen most any “one last heist” movies will not be surprised when things go very, very wrong.

It starts off with her losing the other woman who was going to be there with her for the client.  She can’t get in touch with a couple of other women she knows, so she is desperate when she happens to see Shay.  Needless to say Shay is not exactly trusting when it comes to this strange woman offering her a chance to make some great money, but she also knows she needs to get off the streets at least for tonight.

The two end up at the apartment of a gangster.  Unfortunately for them, his partner in the drug trade decides to show up and fill him full of holes.  The women are hiding in a back room, but the killer isn’t stupid.  He sees the multiple glasses and other signs that the man had company.  The two women manage to get out of there, but as witnesses to the murder they know they are both dead if that guy finds them.  Holly isn’t exactly a clichéd “hooker with a heart of gold”.  She basically kicks Shay back out onto the street and tells her to forget everything she just saw.  Holly makes plans to get her things and get to the airport right away.

Once again, the killer isn’t stupid.  He calls people and finds out who the guy hired to be there and this tracks him back to Holly.  Once he grabs her, the only thing keeping her alive is that he needs her to help him find Shay.  He doesn’t know what she looks like, but Holly does.  What will Holly do?  Will she pretend to not find her?  On the other hand, even if she is desperate to find her, she knows nothing about her, not even her name.

Both actresses do good jobs with their roles.  Lawrence especially does a good job as the fresh-faced, but not innocent girl who is caught up in something worse than she could have ever imagined.  She also plays some hints of the girl she was before coming to the city, but anyone looking for a complete backstory will be disappointed.  Bianca plays her character as a cross between someone who remembers when she was starting out just like Shay, so she can empathize with her, but at the same time as a pragmatic businesswoman who is looking out for her best interests.  In reading their credits on IMDB I see both actresses appeared on the TV show Spartacus: Blood and Sand (aka Spartacus: Vengeance).  In fact, X has now been renamed X: Night of Vengeance in some countries probably to try to point out the connection.

I mentioned at the top that this was a violent film.  While it’s not gory, the killer isn’t one of those “gentleman assassins” who only harms people when he kills them.  No, he’s fully willing to use violence to intimidate anyone he needs to get information from, including women.  In his case, the killing is an extension of that violence.  He provides a serious feeling of menace throughout much of the film.  There is some good tension as a result of this.

Anyone looking for another Pretty Woman (1990) or a PG-13 thriller should not watch the movie X.  It’s a pull-no-punches look at how dangerous the life of a prostitute can be.  Even the initial scenes with Holly showing how great she has it quickly change to her being right back in the city’s underground in danger of losing her life.  While there is some nudity, as well as the opening sex scene, the movie is not really “erotic”.  I would describe it more as a thriller or action thriller that happens to be set in the world of prostitution.  If this sounds interesting then I recommend you give this film a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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  1. I just saw a trailer for this recently (having not heard of it before) and am definitely intrigued after your review. However, despite it being an Australian film, it seems to be unavailable here.

    1. Well, I saw it streaming via Netflix, which is a U.S company. Amazon U.S. has it both streaming and on DVD (region 1). I'm not sure if it's been issued in a version for your DVD region or not.