Fair Game is a gritty revenge thriller set in the arid outback of Australia following the conflict between kangaroo hunters and the tenacious owner of an animal sanctuary. Filled with intense stunts, sleazy exploitation, and tense drama, the film fires on all cylinders to provide an exciting yet cartoonish battle. Dark Star Pictures brings this underseen Ozploitation gem to Region A Blu-ray with a solid A/V package and hours of bonus features. Recommended.
“Look, the boys are just having a bit of a game.”
Starving artist Jessie (Cassandra Delaney, Hurricane Smith) cares for the animals in her sanctuary set against the dusty reaches of the Australian outback while her husband is away on business. She runs into a crew of kangaroo hunters at the shops who earlier tried to run her off the road with their demonic pickup truck. The crew leader Sunny (Peter Ford, Mad Max) tries to smooth things over but Jessie lectures them on their evil ways before leaving. The scolding only encourages the rowdy hunters to taunt the animal lover in a series of perverse and unsettling pranks. Eventually, Jessie is pushed to the limit and retaliates, making the hunters want to tame her rather than just scare her away.
Lacking subtlety this high-octane film commands the viewer’s attention with relentless gonzo camera work never letting a dull frame go by. Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) runs a tight ship keeping shots lean and mean. Read that sentence again, ok? Yes kids, if you spend your early years shooting dirty exploitation films you can still succeed in Hollywood! Taking cues from Mad Max and the criminally underseen Razorback, he drops the camera to the dirt for chase sequences making these moments burst with momentum. Closeups are tight making the piercing red headlights on the demonic truck look into your soul. High camera shots display the sheer isolation of Jessie’s animal preserve and her solitary life in this part of the country. Long dirt roads stretch on forever. The endless bushland that rises and falls through the horizon only offers the local outpost for help.
The intimidation game first starts as the hunters overstep their bounds for fun but once Jessie takes their misogynistic and cruel intentions seriously the boys are in for a scary ride of their own. Cassandra Delaney gives off serious Linda Hamilton vibes as the gentle caregiver is forced to reckon with the destruction of her life’s work and the necessity to become the hunter rather than the prey. Her performance is rock solid though most of the work here is done with excellent editing and scoring to heighten the tension and imbue her character arc with the motivations needed to snuff out the pigs messing with her farm.
This horror story is about a woman’s battle for survival in which the hunters set their sights on her body when her beauty and tenacity become worthy of their efforts. Just as we witness the exploitation of a woman by these hunters who terrorize and degrade her, the camera also never relents on showing Jessie’s shower habits and generous closeups of her exposed body.
Stunt work on Fair Game is joyously explosive giving audiences exactly what they came to see. The hunter’s truck roars to life bashing through scenes with a life of its own. As the game continues the hunters set their sights on her animal compound which offers plenty of easy targets for raucous demolition. For such a small film these stunts look completely dangerous, risky, and well beyond the scope of the film. One such scene has become the film’s calling card among film fanatics. The “hood ornament” scene sees a battered and nearly naked Jessie strapped to the hood of the truck and driven through the dirty bushland while the hunters celebrate their capture. Equally terrifying and real, this becomes the traumatic breaking point for Jessie’s crusade against the hunters. Quentin Tarantino famously lifted this moment for his feature Death Proof in which Zoë Bell is strapped to the hood of a car.
The sheer cruelty on display in Fair Game makes the feature less enticing than other exploitation films released in late 80’s Australia. Lacking a sci-fi element that would possibly soften the blow, the film instead expertly uses outback isolation horror which would see its renaissance with Wolf Creek years later. Andreacchio’s film succeeds as a tense and gritty thriller that would help cement the legacy of Australian action cinema.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Fair Game busts onto Region A Blu-ray thanks to Dark Star Pictures. Housed in a transparent keepcase with reversible artwork the film is pressed onto a BD-50 disc. Loading the disc offers the Dark Star Pictures logo before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes from the film cycling above typical navigation options.
Fair Game arrives with a lovely AVC encoded 1080p image in the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Using the same 2K master from Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray, this image is quite similar though compression is marginally better on this release. While the source used is free from major damage, specks are evident along with occasional scratches. Black levels are satisfying though nighttime scenes yield noisy results. Grain field is heavy with blockiness occurring more than I’d like to see. Contrast is low but warm earth tones of the outback give the feature plenty of life. Primaries are strong with reds and blues dominating an otherwise yellow-brown palette for outdoor scenes. Jessie’s searing blue eyes cut through scenes with surprising brightness. Skin tones are even revealing moderate detail levels. Occasional fine detail within set decorations and costuming particulars. Close-ups on various wildlife yield amazing results with creature details clear and precise.
Fair Game sounds terrific on Blu-ray with two available audio tracks. The 2.0 DTS-HD MA and 2.0 Stereo give you two options. The DTS provides clear dialogue exchanges with pronounced scoring and effects giving the tense feature a complete lack of subtlety. Mix is clean without hiss or pop detected. Distorted synth rock themes pulsate, driving up the intensity at Jessie’s every move. I particularly love the growling noises seemingly emanating from the demon truck’s engine.
Dark Star Pictures loads this Blu-ray to the gills with bonus features. Start with the commentary track before moving through the interview and short films. Superfans will want to crack open a beverage and sit through the 2 hours of raw footage from the production.
Fair Game fires on all cylinders as an underseen Ozploitation gem loaded with outrageous stunts and nasty exploitation elements. Nearly 40 years later the film still holds up as a lean and intense action thriller. The Blu-ray from Dark Star Pictures has a solid A/V package and plenty of special features for fans of the film. Recommended.