A kidnapping turns prickly in the Down Under neo-noir "Cactus."

A kidnapping turns prickly in the Down Under neo-noir “Cactus.” Exec produced by thesp Bryan Brown, this yarn about an amateur kidnapper taking a loudmouth hostage on a long drive to an unknown destination feels like a padded-out episode from the thesp’s Oz tube series “Twisted Tales,” an O. Henry-style anthology. May 1 release looks to wither locally but may bloom in ancillary.

After being attacked one night, professional gambler Eli Jones (David Lyons) wakes up bound and gagged in the back of a car traveling through the Australian desert. At the wheel is troubled kidnapper John Kelly (Travis McMahon) who, for the sake of conversational interplay between the two, ungags his underhanded abductee. Onetime camera assistant Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan (“Kill Bill,” “Mongol”) leapfrogs into the director’s chair with confidence; but her flawed, lightweight script betrays inexperience behind a keyboard, with main thesps struggling to sustain dramatic momentum amid their inadequate dialogue. Brown contributes an amusing turn as a small-town sheriff, but Shane Jacobson (“Kenny”) is wasted in a thankless cameo. Low-budget concept (two characters, one car, one desert) gets the most from the economical production values; tech credits are impressive.

Cactus

Australia

Production

A Hoyts Distribution release of a New Town Films production, in association with the Australian Film Commission, New South Wales Film & Television Office, Open Space Films. (International sales: New Town Films, Sydney.) Produced by Paul Sullivan. Executive producer, Bryan Brown. Directed, written by Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan.

Crew

Camera (color), Florian Emmerich; editor, Mark Perry; music, Nerida Tyson-Chew; production designer, Aaron Crothers. Reviewed at Hoyts Director's Suite, Sydney, March 26, 2008. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Travis McMahon, David Lyons, Bryan Brown, Shane Jacobson.
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