The first half of this handsomely photographed Kiwi road movie promises much, but a spiral into death and violence toward the end, and a supernatural twist that doesn't really work, spoil what is mostly a pacy and, for a while, exciting yarn.

The first half of this handsomely photographed Kiwi road movie promises much, but a spiral into death and violence toward the end, and a supernatural twist that doesn’t really work, spoil what is mostly a pacy and, for a while, exciting yarn. With an excellent lead performance from Melanie Lynskey, the actress who made such an impact playing opposite Kate Winslet in Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures,” pic has the youth market firmly in its sights, and, though theatrical possibilities outside its home turf loom as dubious, there could be very healthy ancillary prospects.

Alice (Lynskey), reared on movies and TV (Clint Eastwood taught her right from wrong, her heroes are Thelma and Louise) loathes the safety of New Zealand’s South Island and craves adventure. She uses her adoring boyfriend Craig (Dean O’Gorman), who she insists on calling Johnny, as a doormat, but he drives the open-top car that takes them on an adventure, picking up dangerous, drug-dealing Yank hitch-hiker Seth (Boyd Kestner) who’s fleeing from a bunch of skinheads and druggies. For a while, “Snakeskin” excites, but eventually the relentless four-letter dialogue and the increasing improbabilities numb the interest. Production values are top-notch.

Snakeskin

New Zealand

Production

A Portman Entertainment presentation of a New Zealand Film Commission-New Zealand on Air-Film 2 presentation of a Cowgirl production. (Intl. Sales: Portman Films, London.) Produced by Vanessa Sheldrick. Executive producers, Chris Brown, Katherine Butler, Trisha Downie. Directed, written by Gillian Ashurst.

Crew

Camera (color), Donald Duncan; editors, Cushla Dillon, Marcus D'Arcy; music, Leyton & Joost; production designer, Ashley Turner; costume designer, Katrina Hodge. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Market), May 12, 2001. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Melanie Lynskey, Boyd Kestner, Dean O'Gorman, Oliver Driver, Paul Glover, Charlie Bleakley, Jodie Rimmer, Taika Cohen, Gordon Hatfield.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more