Kiss Or Kill

on November 14, 1997 by Susan Lambert
   Call it "Two If By Outback," but "Kiss or Kill" is a tale of two grifters, Nikki (O'Conner) and Al (Day), who make their living by doping and robbing married businessmen that Nikki picks up in bars. But when their latest mark accidentally dies, they take to the road with an incriminating sex tape of a local sports celebrity, Zipper Doyle (Barry Langrishe), that they found in the dead man's briefcase. When folks on their trail start ending up dead, each begins to suspect the other. They find themselves not only on the run from the two detectives and Doyle, but also from their growing suspicions.
   Although the film has something to say about how much we really know our lovers and about the nature of trust, it simply isn't clear exactly what that is. The loose documentary style is a double-edged sword, allowing for a carefree immediacy and yet keeping us distant from the emotional core of the characters. A layer of real fear is lacking from the film, and it's never truly believable that either Nikki or Al is a killer. Still, the performances are lovely, the odd characters engaging and the filmmaking interesting. And there is a scene between two detectives (Chris Haywood and Andrew S. Gilbert) worth the price of admission all by itself.    Starring Frances O'Conner, Matt Day, Chris Haywood and Barry Otto. Directed and written by Bill Bennett. Produced by Bill Bennett and Jennifer Bennett. An October Films release. Drama. Rated R for some graphic sexuality, violence and language. Running time: 96 minutes. There is something extremely likable about this dark and quirky dramatic thriller, which has much to do with the two leads, Frances O'Conner and Matt Day (who both also starred in "Love and Other Catastrophes"). In fact, the problem of the Down Under film is that it's just too darn likable to be a workable thriller. Filmmaker Bill Bennett (who returns to his home country after his less-than-successful American effort "Two If By Sea") begins the film with a powerful opening scene and a Dylan Thomas quote, both of which seem more substantial than the film that follows.
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