Fair Game


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Fair Game
"Great action direction and cinematography elevate the film beyond what most viewers will expect of the exploitation genre."

When it comes to exploitation cinema, Australia punches well above its weight. Its heyday came in the late Seventies and the Eighties, when filmmaking gear was getting cheaper and filmmaking collectives were blossoming in response. The sheer size of the country meant that productions which set up in the outback could pretty much do what they wanted, without fear of regulation, and whilst some of what resulted was incredibly dangerous, it makes for fantastic viewing. With its simple plot, gutsy heroine and unrestrained appetite for violence, Fair game is one of the classics of the genre.

That heroine is Jessica (Cassandra Delaney), a warden on a remote wildlife reserve who spends her time riding around on her horse, Frankie, playing with dog Kyla and tending to injured baby kangaroos. The music swells emotively, her thick mane of golden hair blows in the breeze and the sky is vast and blue., but this very Eighties idea of paradise is about to meet with serious disruption. Three hunters are on the prowl, looking to kill kangaroos in defiance of the area’s protected status. Jessica tries to warn them off, but has little in the way of back-up. A campaign of intimidation begins, with increasing intimations of sexual threat, and though she’s far from a pushover, it doesn’t take long until the series of retaliations escalates into something really dangerous.

Copy picture

Despite being, ostensibly, a rape revenge movie, Fair Game never actually shows us a rape and, indeed, it’s carefully worded so that we can’t be certain one has taken place. Instead, there’s a symbolic act of violence, with partial nudity, which provides excitement whilst encouraging viewers to admire Jessica’s toughness rather than perceiving her as humiliated or shamed. It’s the natural end point of the initial series of conflicts but, of course, there’s still that revenge narrative to come. The hunters may be skilled, but they’re on Jessica’s territory, and she knows how to handle herself.

It’s so easy to inflict violence in this environment, and so little help is available, that, if anything, the challenge for director Mario Andreacchio is finding ways to keep his characters alive. They all seem capable of sustaining an unlikely amount of damage. Main bad guy Sunny (Peter Ford) is smart and capable – Jessica even flirts with him before she realises he’s part of the group – but he’s constantly let down by his bumbling companions. Ringo (David Sandford), who dates the film purely by virtue of his haircut, is often undermined by his own single-minded aggression. Sparks (Garry Who) is simply not very bright, to the extent that Andreacchio has to make a point of his nastiness towards the end of the film so we don’t feel bad about what happens to him.

“She runs like a rabbit,” says Sunny of Jessica, which might be a reference to her bouncing gait but could just as easily refer to her tendency to avoid straight lines and keep finding hiding places, which makes her tricky to catch. Unfortunately she keeps returning to her little wooden house, which is a poor quality fortress. She keeps a variety of animals there and it’s probably worth noting that they don’t all make it, though again, we get hints rather than witnessing violence directly. This does not apply to Jessica’s revenge, which combines fantastic stunt work with simple but effective gore (and will leave you wondering how many of the cast’s bruises are real).

Great action direction and cinematography elevate the film beyond what most viewers will expect of the exploitation genre. The sweeping score is also very effective in places. The final song, however, is stunningly incongruous, reflecting on what Jessica has been through in a way which is not only unrealistic but at odds with Delaney’s performance. Whilst it may well prompt viewers to laugh, it repositions the film as a trashy piece of entertainment which ought not to be taken too seriously.

Reviewed on: 02 Jul 2022
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Fair Game packshot
A young woman running an animal sanctuary in the outback takes revenge on a trio of kangaroo hunters who terrorise her.

Director: Mario Andreacchio

Writer: Rob George

Starring: Cassandra Delaney, Peter Ford, David Sandford, Garry Who, Don Barker

Year: 1986

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: Australia


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