Movie Review: “Fair dinkum,” Tarantino-approved, the Aussie Exploitation Thriller “Fair Game”

Quentin Tarantino has mentioned the down-and-dirty Outback thriller “Fair Game” as one of his inspirations for his “Grindhouse” segment, “Death Proof.” With cinemas starved for content, why not pull this woman-hunted-by-bogans (Aussie for “redneck goons”) out of cold storage for a little visceral vengeance?

Mind you, Tarantino improved on just about everything about “Fair Game” for “Death Proof.” He had Kurt Russell as his pitiless thrill-killer, real stuntwoman Zoe Bell along with Tracie Thoms and Rosario Dawson playing the “victims,” as in “Guess he picked the wrong broads to mess with.”

He focused on the cars, the antagonists and the nearly relentless terror and suspense of the chase.

There’s a little of that in “Fair Game,” which is about a trio of strangers, kangaroo bounty killers who torment, threaten, chase and torment a woman (Cassandra Delaney) who runs a remote, run-down wildlife sanctuary.

Within the first half hour, tough-enough Jess (Delaney) is being stalked through the waterless Outback by Sunny, Ringo and Sparks (Peter Ford, David Sandford and Garry Who). This comes 15 minutes after they’ve used their big Ute (a modified Ford F-150 of the day) to run her tiny ancient Falcon Ranchero off the road.

Telling the local law (Don Barker) about that led nowhere. “Ha’dly what I’d call a hangin’ offense!” And what happens when people with badges don’t do their jobs? Bad guys are emboldened.

Next thing she knows, Jess is running, riding or hiding for her life. She’s slow on the uptake. Her Australian shepherd Kyla — Do they just call them “Shepherds” Down Under? — figures it out before she does.

These brutes kill her sheep, sneak into her house at night with their Polaroid and photograph her sleeping…in the buff, because, you know, it’s hot.

What’s maddening about the movie is the way the script has somebody hard enough to live in the Outback (her “man” is away) respond — or FAIL to respond — to a clear and present and REPEATED danger.

They come damn near to killing or hurting her, time and again. And she still runs home, or confronts these heavily-armed marauders unarmed and shouts “Leave me ALONE!” as if she thinks that’ll work.

“Don’t think you can scare ME with your sick, pointless game!”

Even after she’s recognized her peril, she repeatedly gets the drop on bad guys and fails to drop the hammer. So naturally they take things up a notch, time and again. And God forbid she actually fight back, because all of a sudden all their sniggering previous thuggery is forgotten and they deserve to “even the score a bit,” classic redneck grievance signaling.

The action is brisk and brutal, the scripted “problem solving” not the worst I’ve seen in such movies. Jess has to use what she’s got on hand as they steadily demolish her ranch and kill the wildlife she’s been trying to save, and some of the “traps” she sets are plausible and interesting, perhaps most interesting when they don’t work.

I mean, only in the movies is Rambo sitting in the very tree above the cop he wants to drop down and clobber from, only in “Home Alone” does an elaborate booby-trap trap the boobies the first time.

I can’t really endorse “Fair Game.” But there’s enough good stuff in it — “Mad Max/Road Warrior” mimicking stunts, etc — that you can see what QT saw in it and why he figured he could “improve” on a good idea whose execution wasn’t all it might have been.

Check it out at a Grindhouse (July 8) near you.

Rating: R, violence, nudity

Cast: Cassandra Delaney, Peter Ford, David Sandford, Garry Who and Don Barker.

Credits: Directed by Mario Andreacchio, scripted by Rob George. A Dark Star release, in theaters and on demand.

Running time: 1:25

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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