Dir. Dennis Iliadis. Gre.2004. 98mins

A promising sketch ratheran actual probe into Athens' sleazy dives, lo-fi drama Hardcorenevertheless shows distinct promise for debut feature film-maker DennisIliadis.

While his film-making giftsclearly need more mileage to mature, Iliadis' first feature neverthelessmaintains a steady course between coyness and titillation, conveying in theprocess a credible and at times quite moving approach to a tale inevitablybathed in sordid undertones.

Already acquired by Strandfor US distribution, with deals in place for France (Antiprod) and Germany(Legend Films) among others, this unassuming item makes for one of the morepromising items to emerge from Greece over the last 12 months.

Iliadis takes as his plot abrief, impossible romance that fades away before it even has the chance tofully bloom amid the grim, inauspicious underbelly of Athens.

Told in retrospect by one ofthe two main characters, 17-years-old Martha (Tsavalou), the film details therelationship between her and 16-year-old Nadia (Skiadi), who both work asprostitutes out of a dilapidated brothel.

Their relationship - and thenumbness from heavy drugs use - are the only solace and tenderness the pair canexpect to find in this meat shop, where they toil for a paternalistic pimp whorules all with a strict hand.

But each seems to havedifferent motivations for being there. For Martha, who has been in the businessfor some time now and by is almost burned out, it is the only way to make aliving.

In contrast the wilder andless manageable Nadia seems to be driven more by some perverse curiosity thatneeds to be satisfied than any state of penury. Fascinated by what seems to beMartha's rebellious spirit, she is willing to follow her everywhere whileenvying her apparently carefree habit of getting of getting her own way.

Eventually the pair decideto move out and share a flat but become mixed up with a pair of maleprostitutes before they can do so. Guns go off, corpses pile up and the plotheads into Pulp Fiction territory, where Iliadis shows himselfdistinctly less comfortable at dealing with the material.

Yet while at times Hardcoreresembles an early draft of something more elaborate to come, there is nodoubting that Iliadis' lack of script depth is compensated by the impressivelyeffective performances he draws from his two leads.

In particular Tsavalou, asthe emaciated Martha, delivers a melancholy turn as the girl briefly awakenedfrom her lethargy by Skiadi's headstrong Nadia.

The feature's low budget,very much in evidence throughout, serves the atmosphere well by underlining themisery of the surroundings and the squalor of the lives.

The seedy, makeshiftinteriors designed by Eli Papageorgakopoulou take on an even gloomierappearance under the bleak neon lighting employed by cinematographer ThymiosBakandakis.

Prod cos: Ideefixe, Odeon, Greek Film Centre, Film Net
Int'l sales:
Greek Film Centre
Gre dist:
Dennis Iliadis, IraklisMavroidis
Iliadis, based on novel byAleka Laskos
Thymios Bakandakis
Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Prod des:
Eli Papageorgakopoulou
Onefingermusic, ChristosLainas
Main cast:
Katerina Tsavalou,Danai Skiadi, Ioannis Papazissis, Omiros Poulakis, Andreas Marianos