Holly Rowe (Viva Bianca) is retiring from her callgirl life. She just has to get through her last night on the job. Shay Ryan (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) is 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 trapped on an out-of-control roller coaster ride, through the twilight zone of sex-for-sale.
Review by Louise Keller:
Sex, violence, corruption and disillusionment are the themes of Jon Hewitt's darkly erotic thriller in which two call-girls get more than they bargain for in a tough night on the job. The script which Hewitt has written with partner, actress Belinda McClory is brave and extreme although there are aspects that probably work better on paper than in execution. Like its characters, the film is flawed, but it has a tangible, provocative mood that resonates with danger and it looks wonderful, combining sleazy locations with the elegant beauty of Sydney Harbour by night. Two stunning central performances by Viva Bianca and Shay Ryan as the veteran and novice, are the film's greatest asset.
Full frontal nudity, graphic sex scenes, drug-taking, violence, asphyxiation, murder, pole dancing and swearing are par for the course as the destinies of two hookers are intertwined during one frenzied, harrowing night. The film starts in erotic mode with a scene in which a group of women sipping champagne cross their legs as they watch the intimate floor show: a naked, well-hung man displays his sexual prowess on the floor with a scantily clad hooker in black bra, knickers and stockings. The hooker is Holly (Viva Bianca), who is going through the paces of her last day on the job before she achieves her dream of flying to Paris and starting a new life. She is in control - of her emotions, her situation and her life.
In no time eroticism turns ugly and the sex on screen is as mundane and sordid as the lifestyle. Meeting Shay Ryan (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) on her first day on the job is painful. A pretty seventeen year old with an upturned nose, pink lipstick and wearing shorts and a crop top, Shay is desperate. Standing on the side of the road waiting for offers from passing motorists, she asks for $50, but it is clear she will take $20 and not be too fussy about what she does for it. She is not in control of anything. Not even her dreams.
It's hard to buy the scene when Holly recruits Shay, although perhaps in Kings Cross it's commonplace to approach a stranger in the street asking for a brunette with x-rated skills. The scene in which the girls partake a three-some lacks the tension it deserves, but the panic that follows is well executed. The next few scenes depict a nightmare reality, including the one in which Shay helps the druggies in the room at the sordid hotel in which she has booked in. It's the kind of place that rents rooms by the hour.
The essence of the raw, tragic lifestyle is pretty well summed up when a young prostitute called Cindy (Freya Tingley) asks Shay 'Where are you going? Nowhere? Can I come?' But there is a welcome spark in the relationship between Shay and Harry the cab driver (Eamon Farren) who likes magic and hypnotism. Harry is the only man with any redeeming qualities and Farren is terrific. Mark Pugh's cinematography includes quite a bit of shaky hand-held to represent the uncertainty and dread. The film quickly escalates into dark despair and some pretty nasty characters are involved as the action becomes increasingly violent. I felt pretty grubby by the end, although the film's final line carries the weight of innocence, poignancy and hope.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The major aria for the tenor from Tosca, E Lucevan Le Stelle, soars over the second scene of the film, a private gathering of champagne sipping women watching the live sex between Holly (Viva Bianca) and a young naked male she introduces simply as one who goes off like a firecracker. It's not a unique idea to marry high art with low acts as a way of creating cinematic conflict of textures and tone - as we all remember from Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) for example, or Michael Haneke's Funny Games (1997). Jon Hewitt is following in large footsteps ...
He's made a short, sharp and edgy thriller that's as effective and engaging as his Red Ball (1999), which was set in the world of corrupt cops. He has retained some of those elements but the central characters are two women, a 30 year old call girl hoping to start a new life and a 17 year old out of towner - also hoping to start a new life. They meet on the streets of Kings Cross where fate awaits them in a hotel room.
Viva Bianca is vivacious as the blonde Holly Rowe, a proud and determined woman who knows how to handle herself after 15 years as a hooker. Hanna Mangan Lawrence plays the homeless and broke Shay, a vulnerable newcomer dazed and confused by what she's got herself into.
The male leads, Peter Docker and Stephen Phillips, make a strong impression, as does Eamon Farren as Harry the part time magician and taxi driver who provides the transport - and some decency. Characterisations are sufficient for the genre and the technicals are all excellent. Special mention to David Franzke and Byron Joel Scullin for the terrific sound & music scape.
The screenplay links the story points with an authenticity that's satisfying and the thrills are well orchestrated, including a couple of street fights, a chase or two and some dramatic confrontations - as well as a surprise or two.
First published in the Sun-Herald
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CAST: Viva Bianca, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Wayne Blair, Peter Docker, Eamon Farren, Jordan Fielding, Brunetta Hampson, Natasha Herbert, Rebecca Irwin, Belinda McClory
PRODUCER: Lizette Atkins
DIRECTOR: Jon Hewitt
SCRIPT: Jon Hewitt, Belinda McClory
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mark Pugh
EDITOR: Cindy Clarkson
MUSIC: David Franzke, Byron Joel Scullin (co-composer)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michelle Sotheren
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane: November 24, 2011; Sydney: December 1, 2011