What starts as a enjoyable ride through the world of suburbia unexpectedly loses steam half way through "Suburban Mayhem," the latest addition to the outrageous line of amoral uber-bitches that fails to inject new life into the comic genre. Commercial feature should start well Down Under, though B.O. might not sustain lengthy exposure.

What starts as a predictably enjoyable ride through the hothouse world of suburbia unexpectedly loses steam half way through “Suburban Mayhem,” the latest addition to the gloriously outrageous line of amoral uber-bitches that fails to inject new life into the comic genre. Much ink has been spilled over wunderkind scripter Alice Bell, but though she’s got an ear for authentic dialogue, she overloads second half with plot while helmer Paul Goldman fails to bring up the rear with sufficient momentum. Unabashedly commercial feature should start well Down Under, though B.O. might not sustain lengthy exposure.

Slutty and cunning manipulator Katrina (Emily Barclay) is first seen being interviewed following her father’s murder, obviously reveling in her new-found limited celebrity.

Shifts back and forth in time reveal her delinquent ways, confirmed by talking heads of friends and neighbors who discuss the many problems father John (Robert Morgan) had in keeping Katrina and her brother Danny (Laurence Breuls) out of trouble.

The unnaturally close siblings are split apart when Danny’s sent up the river for slicing off the head of an insulting store clerk he was robbing. Katrina, generally concerned only with beauty treatments and blow jobs, determines to find the money to pay for a retrial.

When Dad won’t front the cash, she uses her charms to get him offed. Question is, who will do the deed: thick-headed but sweet bf Rusty (Michael Dorman) or Danny’s mentally challenged buddy Kenny (Anthony Hayes, “Look Both Ways”).

At the kick-off Goldman (“The Night We Called It a Day”) has fun with his material, playfully including small animated touches and inventive montages, but he seems to forget their existence just when his rhythm falters.

As if to make up for the sudden drag, he uses blasting rock tunes to keep up the pace, though without an accompanying push forward from either script or direction, the songs are just noticeably loud.

To her credit Barclay attacks the role with gusto, obviously enjoying her turn as that most pleasurable of cinematic characters, the thoroughly amoral bitch who uses her body to get what she wants, all done with a sparkle in the eye and a sneer on the lips.

As neighbor Dianne, Genevieve Lemon adds the right touch of suburban normality, always hiding disapproval within her casual family stories.

Nicely saturated colors lend pic a temporary upbeat buoyancy, well contrasted with the TV quality of faked video interviews Soundtrack, with post-punk Aussie bands like Magic Dirt and their ironic grunge anthem “I’m a Sucker for Your Love” could provide added spin-off revenue.

Suburban Mayhem

Australia

Production

A Film Finance Corp. presentation, in association with NSW Film and Showtime Australia, a Suburban Mayhem production. (International sales: Fortissimo Films, Amsterdam.) Produced by Leah Churchill-Brown. Executive producer, Jan Chapman. Directed by Paul Goldman. Screenplay, Alice Bell.

Crew

Camera (color), Robert Humphreys; editor, Stephen Evans; music, Mick Harvey; production designer, Nell Hanson; art director, Janie Parker; costume designer, Melinda Doring; sound (Dolby Digital), Stephen Jackson-Vaughan; assistant director, Chris Webb; casting, Anousha Zarkesh. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 23, 2006. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Emily Barclay, Michael Dorman, Mia Wasikowska, Anthony Hayes, Steve Bastoni, Genevieve Lemon, Robert Morgan, Madeleine Jaine, Laurence Breuls, John Carr, Susan Prior.
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