Nikki (Frances O’Connor) is flirting outrageously with Paul (Geoff Revell) in a bar. He tells her he’s a patent attorney and then later tries to impress by saying he’s meeting up the next morning with ex-football star Zipper Doyle (a crucial piece of narrative information since, as we will soon learn, Paul appears to be blackmailing Doyle). Al (Matt Day) turns up, pretending to be Nikki’s jealous ex, and starts a fight at the table. This gives Nikki the excuse to run out of the dining room with Paul and head back to his hotel room, where she continues the apparent seduction.
This scene is a crucial part of the narrative set-up, leading directly to the script’s inciting incident, in which Nikki accidentally kills Paul with an overdose (after he’s tried to rape her) and she and Al discover an incriminating videotape of Doyle in Paul’s briefcase. These linked events cause the pair to decide to drive as far away as possible – to Perth.
Here we also see the film’s use of fire as a motif. The opening shot of the cigarette being lit directly echoes the final shot of the previous scene, an horrific flashback to when the young Nikki witnessed her mother being deliberately set alight by a man, an act that explains much of the adult Nikki’s behaviour. Note that Nikki’s over-the-top flirtatious manner is not O’Connor over-acting. Rather, her character is acting out a role as part of her con routine. Paul’s willingness to fall for it indicates his naivety.
Al’s aggressive interruption of the bogus date is riveting to watch because we initially don’t know this is all part of the scam. It gives him an arresting introduction to viewers – though, strictly speaking, his intervention is not really necessary to the scam; it merely speeds it up. If the couple were thinking logically they’d realise their staged public fracas merely makes it more likely eyewitnesses will remember their faces. But then impatience and impulsiveness will prove to be two of Nikki and Al’s strongest traits.