Opening with a very fetching titles sequence that presents a voluptuous brunette rubbing soap into her naked curves, NAKED TRIP then wastes no time in introducing us to it's protagonist: George Eastman (Jason Impey).

The cannily named George is an aspiring independent filmmaker who, when not working, is prone to waking up in a cold sweat and driving around the city at night while narrating about how someone should clean the streets of the scum. Complete with a Bernard Herrmann-type jazzy score, the TAXI DRIVER homage is just the second (George Eastman!) of many to follow.

The next morning George ventures out to a remote bench where he meets with a foul-mouthed gangster. George took a loan from the local Mafia to shoot his last film and now they want repaying. It doesn't help that, as the mobster puts it, George hired a porn starlet for the film and she blew the entire budget on cocaine …

George is given just 24 hours to find the cash. After getting into a scrap with an old American friend who fails to help out, George takes a drive and chain-smokes some more while deciding what to do. He determines that the best thing to do is go on the run.

But first, he holes himself up in a motel for one last night of passion with an old flame. A lengthy montage of scuttling and rutting ensues.

Come daylight, George races round to his actress friend Sarah's house, with the promise of a new challenging role for her. He promises to tell her more about her role after they set off on their impromptu "business trip".

Instead, Sarah becomes George's prisoner-of-sorts as he embarks on a long-distance journey away from "the city".

In the meantime a pair of overly sensitive, piano-loving Mafia hitmen are sent round to George's flat. Dismayed to find he's done a runner, they set off on his trail. They soon catch up with him in a roadside café where an altercation ensues in the men's toilets.

Obviously George manages to fight his way out of this predicament, enabling him to continue his surreal road trip with the bickering Sarah, encountering a bizarre collective of characters along the way.

All of which leads George to the coast, where his destiny awaits …

Nudity, sex, copious cigarettes, decently choreographed fights, minor violence, a Nazi flag and a cameo from the sexy Michelle Young (TORTURED; NAKED NAZI) … all in a tight 50 minutes.

What's more striking about NAKED TRIP though is it's pensive black-and-white photography and constantly inventive camerawork. Director Alex Bakshaev ensures every scene is framed just so, clearly taking the time to think about how each shot is going to be presented. It's a visual triumph, although perhaps a little too artsy to properly engage as a thriller.

But, as the opening text declares, the film is dedicated to Jess Franco and Jean-Luc Godard. So, world cinema is very much where it's heart lies. The Godard influences are obvious - the gangster backdrop; the monochrome look; the nonchalant antihero with cigarette permanently hanging from mouth as a symbol of cool; the kooky characters; the existential aesthetics; the unconventional storytelling. In terms of Franco, the nods seem more in line with throwing grindhouse elements in to appease the micro budget audience: softcore sex scenes and dodgy acting.

But this is indie British filmmaking on a shoestring budget. Pitfalls will always include wooden performances and ropey production values. As with many films of it's ilk, NAKED TRIP makes the mistake of trying to compensate for these with pretentious arthouse allusions … sometimes they work (the beach finale), other times they don't - so the exploitation element more akin to Franco becomes a necessary evil: it levels the film out with something to whet the appetites of the more forgiving grindhouse crowd.

In this respect, Bakshaev perhaps hasn't pushed the boundaries far enough. His film comes and goes (including a couple of scenes during the closing titles, one of which involves Young simulating fellatio on Impey) and while it is not without merit and charm, it's ultimately rather forgettable.

Impey makes an impression in the lead role though, his weak performance exuding a commendable sincerity that's strangely easy to warm to.

The film is presented uncut in non-anamorphic 1.78:1. The black-and-white images are strong and crisp.

The English 2.0 audio offers a reliable and loud playback.

Static menus include a scene-selection menu allowing access to NAKED TRIP via 14 chapters.

Extras on this self-promoted DVD-R include a 6-minute black-and-white Making Of featurette that, despite being only short, packs in a wealth of interesting behind-the-scenes footage which gives a feel for the amiable no-budget shoot. This includes contributions from all concerned, including a chain-smoking Impey and affable Bakshaev. There are also clips set to a funky score.

A 2-mihute trailer follows, along with a generous gallery of 53 black-and-white stills from the shoot.

Finally we get trailers for Impey's own TORTURED, NAKED NAZI (soft version), CUT AND PASTE and the forthcoming PENANCE, which looks intriguing.

NAKED TRIP has interesting elements and I'd like to see Bakshaev rein in his arthouse aspirations a little in future, concentrating more on entertaining the viewer in a more fluent manner. Still, this is a highly promising beginning and Impey remains as watchable as ever.

Review by Stuart Willis

Directed by Alex Bakshaev