By Jill Koskitalo
It seems any movie that has a string of thefts and violent crimes left behind by a young couple on the run begs a comparison with Bonnie and Clyde. That film was a classic tale of kids gone bad and all movies that follow in its footsteps are held up to it.
Well dammit, not this time.
Bill Bennet’s new film Kiss or Kill is a movie that can stand on its own. A gritty tale about two grifters wanted for murder and robbery, Kiss or Kill could set a new standard for film noir.
The tone for the movie is set right from the opening scene. A little girl watches as her mother answers the front door. Is doused in gasoline and goes up in flames. Years later the girl, Nikki, grows up to become a professional con artist. To make a living. Nikki (Frances O’Connor), along with her edgy and slightly psychotic boyfriend Al (Matt Day from Muriel’s Wedding), drug and rob married businessmen. Their life of crime catches up with the couple when one of their marks accidentally dies. As one reviewer put it, the couple is “smart enough to run but too dumb to cover their tracks.” Their flight from the police takes them through the Australian outback and every time they make a stop, they leave at least one dead body in their wake.
O’Connor and Day both give performances that are nothing short of riveting. The movie is edited in a jagged manner with plenty of jump cuts that give it a frenetic edge. Unlike most American movies with a whodunit component, Kiss or Kill is completely ambiguous as to who the killer is until the very end. The film also surprises the viewer with its strange dark humor. Characters such as the motel owner who serves the couple a giant fondue and the wry chief detective Hummer (Chris Haywood), make the audience relax and laugh a bit, only to have the next jarring cut rip the story back into Nikki and Al’s desperate flight. A truly engaging thriller, Kiss or Kill is a film that needs to be seen in a theatre, where the only thing to focus on is the movie and the sound of strangers breathing in the dark.