Fair Game is a well-regarded 1986 Australian film that was one of the inspirations for Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. It feels like an '80s film. That's a compliment. Made before the era of CGI, the movie relies on real cars and real stunts. Plot-wise, it's lean and mean, with no excess fat. The story starts immediately, and the picture's over with the death of the last bad guy. I miss stuff like this. There's a simplicity to it that's appealing. Fair Game is being re-released theatrically on July 8 and on VOD July 12. You probably won't find a better throwback vibe all year.
Jessica (Cassandra Delaney) runs a wildlife sanctuary. She crosses paths with three kangaroo hunters, the shrewd Sunny (Peter Ford) and his two dimwit buddies Ringo (David Sanford) and Sparks (Gary Who). Their initial goal is to merely kill the animals, but the appearance of an attractive woman ignites their desire to mess with her, too. One of them breaks into Jessica's house and takes a picture of her sleeping in the nude. Stuff gets crazy and violent when she decides to exact revenge.
That's it! That's the picture right there. Early scenes show Sunny and crew tormenting Jessica in various ways; later scenes show her getting even with booby traps. It works for a couple reasons, beginning with skilled staging of the action. Director Mario Andrecchio has a nice, direct approach that captures the rawness of what happens between the characters. Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie – who went on to shoot Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy – captures the violent mayhem with style and a gritty atmosphere.
Another plus is that Delaney is appealing as Jessica. The character is no damsel in distress, she's a smart, capable woman who proves a force to be reckoned with. We really root for her, not just because Sunny, Sparks, and Ringo are unrepentant creeps, but because Jessica doesn't put up with their shit. She gives it right back to them, tenfold. Looking back, it's amazing how progressive Fair Game is. Not many action movies in the mid-'80s had female protagonists, much less one who could hold her own against the bad guys.
The film is progressive in other ways, too. At the time, the plot probably played like a typical revenge flick – I Spit on Your Grave with kangaroos. What's striking now is the whole #MeToo-ness of the story. Because she's an attractive female, Sunny and his cohorts view her as “there for the taking.” They see nothing wrong with violating her privacy, making her feel afraid, or openly lusting after her. They think it's their right as men to use Jessica for their own amusement. Our increased awareness of such things infuses Fair Game with a kick it didn't really have upon initial release.
Action movies have become big and complicated, making it nice to revisit those '80s-style, just-get-it-done thrills. If you have a longing to return to that for 86 minutes – or if you weren't there and want to experience what it was like – Fair Game is a re-release that you should absolutely make time for.
out of four
Fair Game is rated R for bloody violence, language, and nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.