Lady Terror (2023)

Rating: C+

Dir: Nathan Hill
Star: Nathan Hill, Phillyda Murphy, Simay Argento, Tritia DeViSha,

Hill is a bit of a one-man Antipodean film industry, and we reviewed one of his productions, Cult Girls, a while back. He is pulling double-duty here, working both behind and in front of the camera for this one. The main area of improvement is, it’s a considerably more coherent story than the muddled mess which was Girls. Lawyer Jake Large is stuck in a loveless engagement with Celine (DeViSha) when he rescues exotic dancer Candice Knight (Murphy) from a mugging attempt. He is then drawn into a passionate relationship with her, and Candice convinces him to kill her abusive stepfather. But things are not as simple as that. Then again, in this genre, is it ever?

“Tale as old as time, true as it can be: do not stick your dick, in CRAAAAAA-zeeeeee…” That might be the moral of this one, and it leaves the viewer in a somewhat ambivalent place with regard to Jake. On the one hand, he’s an idiot, and remarkably dumb for someone who supposedly passed the Australian bar. On the other, he’s a victim of circumstance (or at least, “I thought you called it your pecker,” to borrow a line from Tremors), and his good nature is ruthlessly exploited by Candice’s manipulative behaviour. He’s just fortunate that his secretary, Ayla Harp (Argento – and, yes, she is a distant relative), is a wannabe PI, and decides to get in a bit of practice by investigating her boss’s new flame.

Indeed, the women in this film tend to come over as rather smarter, in one way or another, than the men, albeit allowing for Candice’s sociopathy.  Her stepdad (Anton Kormoczi) is a proper piece of work: he might be a pal of Mark ‘Chopper’ Read. Or, at least go to the same barber. A couple of elements do come over as a bit awkward. The film has a weird fascination with hats: both Jake and Ayla are apparently very fond of theirs, even keeping them on indoors, which always seems like a tremendously hipster thing to do. [Then again, I possess only baseball caps, so what do I know?] There’s also a remarkably light suitcase of bullion, the makers having apparently not realized that the average gold bar weighs somewhere north of 27 pounds.

I feel it does need some more sex and violence in the mix, especially given the subject matter. As is, save for appropriately energetic and Australian cursing, it seems a bit more like a Lifetime Original Movie, probably entitled Seduced by a Stripper, or perhaps The Wrong Exotic Dancer. At one point, it felt like Ayla was going to kick serious ass, then the film goes, “Nah….” The engagement subplot is rather irrelevant too: it’s not as if the hero has anything to lose there with his infidelity, not least because Celine informs him, mid-way through, that she has found someone else and is moving out anyway. Still, it’s 80 minutes I don’t feel were wasted, entertainment-wise.