Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fair Game

  There's a scene in this movie where three crazed poachers tie a woman to the front of their evil looking truck, cut up her clothes and decide to go for a pedal-to-the-metal joyride. (Pictured above.) Either you're someone who says "That sounds awful!" and actively avoids ever watching this movie, or you're someone who just said "Woah! I gotta see this!". This movie was made for the latter audience. It's not complex, or deep, but it's lean, over-the-top and fast paced. Amazingly, it even has solid acting and some surprisingly good cinematography. It's grade-A exploitation trash. If you're a fan of the genre... it rarely gets better than this.

  The characters are exactly what they need to be for the movie to work and nothing more. The heroine is a compassionate animal lover who runs a wildlife preserve where she also lives, somewhere in Australia. The villains are three poachers who think they can just... do whatever and get away with it. What's worse is, they pretty much can. The law enforcement in this movie is a joke, but of course they are because the plot of the movie necessitates it. Just like the heroine might've not been brutalized and tormented if she had just stayed out of the poachers way on a few very specific occasions. Granted, the movie usually has us believe that her love of the animals far exceeds her most basic self-preservation instinct. Sometimes it's hard to buy it... but overall it works.

  Thus you have all the pieces laid out for a truly insane game of cat and mouse. The movie is exciting and scary, at times even nerve wracking. Simplicity was key here and the makers seemed to know that. They didn't over-complicate things, they kept the movie very lean. Which totally works. It's hour and twenty-some minutes runtime is breezy and never dull. There are plenty of exploitation flicks which are boring up to a point, and then something insane happens and only then does it really draw you in. Fair Game is a cut above those movies. Whether it's the subtle creativity in the production design and the cinematography or the cracking pace of the movie, it avoids being that typical 2/3rds dull.

  Worry not though, despite the fact it keeps the tension ramped up from the go, there's still that absolutely crazy scene with the heroine tied to the truck. Afterwards, what does she do? She picks herself up, bruised and bloodied, dusts herself off... and gets back at them. It's one nerve wracking encounter after the next, with each one eclipsing the last in scale and intensity. There's no time to worry about a thin plot or a threadbare story. The filmmakers knew exactly what kind of movie they were making and they made sure it was a damn good one at that. It is a bit campy at times, pretty darn dated, and the sound mixing is really odd... but it overcomes all that and a repetitive music score, ending up being wholly and completely entertaining.

  I keep calling the lead, "heroine", instead of addressing her by her character's name. That's because I don't remember it. Nor do I remember the poachers' names. I suppose in a movie so lean and rather devoid of any serious character development, names are a default obligation but far from necessary. We remember these characters by what they are, not who they are. Such is the case for many movies like this. Especially here though. Names are irrelevant, as are many other things, because movies like this operate on a set of rules outside of the Hollywood norm. Fair Game was lucky enough to avoid the bore of some other low budget thrillers that don't know quite how to spend their budget. Those movies end up being 90% dialog- and not just any dialog. Boring dialog. In a movie where names are forgettable and dispensable, why ever would you want to hear those characters talk for 2/3rds of the movie? This movie is gritty survival, start to finish.

  If the movie sounds good to you, but you don't know a lot about exploitation cinema (or more specifically ozploitation with this one) I suggest doing a bit of due diligence and googling it a bit. Understanding the genre, it's origins, and what it's all about will go a long way towards boosting your enjoyment not just of Fair Game but movies like it. Movies like Thriller: A Cruel Picture, Vanishing Point, Cannibal Ferox, Coffy, and the notorious I Spit On Your Grave are all exploitation. Yet under the banner of exploitation, there are probably a dozen sub-genres. Blaxploitation, Oszploitation, Nazisploitation, Sexploitation, Shocksploitation- and no I'm not making these up. Exploitation movies took a theme, and often a low budget, and tried to exploit said theme to the fullest extent.

  These movies usually have a major shock factor originally used to get people to see their movie and to have it get around via word of mouth. (i.e. the girl-tied-to-hood scene in this movie) That's sort of the spirit of exploitation. Making something over-the-top and crazy in order to grab people's attention. These genres still have a huge following. I for one am a massive fan and I watch whatever I can get my hands on. Often due to their smaller budgets though, they'd have to save a lot of it for the big spectacle, usually at the end. Sometimes this resulted in dull movies with a cool climax, other times the movie had an even and well paced tone that completely masks the small budget. Fair Game is one of those movies. At worst it looks like a well produced TV movie, at best it looks like a forgotten 80's gem that's surprisingly good- cause well... it is.

  I can't say it's forgotten among exploitation fans, I wouldn't know either way, but I'd like to think this movie has a little following all it's own. It certainly deserves it. From the freaky poachers' truck named "Beast" to the ever-resilient heroine, Fair Game packs a punch, and has all the trimmings for an unusual yet absolutely fun time.

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