Ozploitation is a subgenre hardly given enough recognition. There have been many fine examples, but more often than not some gems have been swept away in a wave of political correctness. Occasionally, they are recognised (by people such as Quentin Tarantino in the excellent documentary Not Quite Hollywood, for example) and that leads to rediscovery, which is what has happened with this new HD transfer from Umbrella of a forgotten eighties Aussie classic that ticks all the boxes of what we’ve come to expect from Down Under.
If your appreciation of Australian cinema begins and ends with Mad Max, you might be pleased to hear that souped-up cars play a role somewhat in Fair Game. Indeed, the catalyst for the events that unfold is a dangerous bout of road rage, dismissed by the perpetrators as ‘high jinks’. The unfortunate victim here is Jessica (Delaney), who looks after the nature reserve and dabbles in a little bit of painting. The offenders are a bunch of hunters who’ve been supplying the local businesses with kangaroo carcases. Jessica suspects they may be trespassing on her reserve and killing her animals, but the local police won’t get involved without evidence.
When Jessica has the sass to stand her ground at the trio, particularly when they set up camp within her grounds, a tit-for-tat battle begins with each side attempting to rattle the other enough for them to give in. Jessica welding the group’s rifles into a work of surreal art is the final straw, though, and they take their fun and games too far; moving from dumping a dead ‘roo in her car to stripping her and mounting her as a hood ornament on their monstrous truck. Enough is enough, and she takes a stand to rid her place of the foul team.
Fair Game is arguably pitched between Straw Dogs and Wake in Fright, with the obnoxious poachers running riot for the most part, but getting their comeuppance in fine style. Oddly for the predominately sexist Australian cinema at the time, it’s a very strong feminist film. Much like I Spit on Your Grave, in which the female victim must stand up to her oppressors in whatever extreme fashion that may be, the protagonist in Fair Game is left alone without any outside help for the most part. She will only be able to protect herself and home by using her own courage and ingenuity.
The villainous, utterly unlikeable, trio show as little respect for the law as they do for the animals they slaughter for personal gain. Whether it’s the ‘ocker’ culture or pure malice, they invade Jessica’s nature reserve knowing full well that the authorities will not intervene. We feel her frustration as much as her humiliation and anger at the situation, and it’s this empathy that propels the film above the usual exploitation tropes.
It’s an often tense and terrible drama that leaves us in no doubt who to root for and gives us no pleasure in the horrendous crimes committed. Beautifully shot and making the most of the Outback location, had it not had the occasional scene that takes place in the town, it could easily be mistaken for post-apocalyptic in scope.
The Australian Blu-ray release (multi-region should you wish to import it) is a great package, too. With both contemporary interviews and location shots and recent retrospective interviews (many offcuts from the aforementioned Ozsploitation documentary), there is plenty to dive into and enjoy. It’s well worth checking out.
FAIR GAME (1986) / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: MARIO ANDREACCHIO / SCREENPLAY: ROB GEORGE / STARRING: CASSANDRA DELANEY, PETER FORD, DAVID SANDFORD, GARRY WHO, DON BARKER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW