Australia has a rich tradition of crime cinema, stretching all the way back to Charles Tait’s 1906 banger The Story of the Kelly Gang—the first ever full-length feature film (suck it, yanks). Since then, we’ve had Money Movers, Two Hands, Chopper, Animal Kingdom, Mystery Road and more: a rich legacy of cops ‘n’ crooks capers. Hell, having started our modern existence as prison colony, it’s fair to say that crime stories are part of our national myth.
But some crime flicks that deserve recognition occasionally slip through the cracks. One of these, writer and director Bill Bennett’s lovers-on-the-lam road movie Kiss or Kill, has been hard to track down for years, but has suddenly cropped up on streaming service Stan. Here’s why that’s a good thing.
Bloody oath, it’s outback noir
Kiss or Kill stars Frances O’Connor (Love and Other Catastrophes, Go!) as Nikki and Matt Day (every second Australian film, A Country Practice) as Al, two petty criminals who specialise in drugging and mugging straying businessmen. Targeting married men (they’re less likely to call the cops), Nikki prowls hotel bars looking for prey, spiking their drinks when they take her back to their room. That’s when Al shows up to help rifling the poor sap’s luggage for valuables.
Things go astray when their latest victim dies under the influence and among his possessions they find a videotape showing retired football hero Zipper Doyle (Frank Langrishe) engaged in a particularly heinous sex act. The pair light out from Adelaide, heading across the unforgiving Nullarbor Plain to Perth. In pursuit: two cops (Chris Haywood and Andrew S. Gilbert), who have questions about that dead businessman; and Zipper, who really wants that tape back…
However, things get more interesting (for the viewer) and more fraught (for our desperate duo) when fresh bodies start turning up at every stop they make on their cross country flight. Is Nikki a serial killer? Is Al? How well do they really know each other? And who can we, the audience, trust?