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NewCityNet Film Tip of the Week

NOVEMBER 24, 1997:  The outlaw couple genre, a subset of the road movie, is open to endless variations, limited only by how well you keep your eyes up on the highway ahead. It's also open to endless retreads, so many Bonnies, so many Clydes, so little inspiration. But Bill Bennett's conspicuously charming "Kiss or Kill" is pretty much a delight from start to finish, working with Frances O'Connor and Matt Day, two fresh-faced actors seen earlier this year in "Love and Other Catastrophes." Bennett had been bedeviled for more than a decade by this story of two lovers on the run who can't trust each other. While Bennett helmed the ill-fated Sandra Bullock-Denis Leary vehicle, "Two if by Sea," his two decades of experience allowed him to blossom in the looser form of "Kiss," which snagged five Australian Film Institute Awards, including Best Picture, last Friday. There's an offhand panache that leavens even some pretty dark moments. Petty crimes lead to larger deceptions, and soon a pile of bodies are left in their wake. Witty, farcical and uncommonly smart, Bennett's semi-improvised caper is a sweet piece of malice. Nikki and Al are a pair of grifters who latch onto libidinous businessmen in hotel bars, whereupon Nikki chats them up and after she's drugged them, she and Al shake them down. One such scam goes awry and they're soon bolting across the Australian desert, encountering one delicious minor character after another. The hand-held shots, jump-cutting and a general sense of unease and enigmatic portent draw us inexorably into Nikki and Al's twisted, often hilarious, world. Charm is part of any con and the greatest part of this smooth anecdote. It's amazing nowadays when you can grin through the darkest complications of a plot -- or when you even care to.

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