Come for the supermodel. Stay for the A level-produced B movie.
By Review Staff
Fair Game, the 1995 chase film from producer Joel Silver, is a strange mesh of good and bad, featuring talent both experienced and inexperienced resulting in a B movie dressed up in A-movie skin.
The film stars real-life supermodel Cindy Crawford as attorney Kate McQuean and William Baldwin as Max Kirkpatrick, a Florida police officer. Kirkpatrick goes on the run to protect McQuean when she’s targeted by ex-members of the KGB interested in a ship owned by a Cuban man who may lose it in a divorce case being pursued by McQuean, who happens to be a civil law attorney.
Will they capture her? Can Kirkpatrick keep her safe? Will viewers remember any of it when the credits roll?
The above synopsis is about as good as it can be explained, because for the love of God, after watching it for the first time in over a decade, I still can’t figure out what the hell they’re chasing McQuean for. But the bottom line is that they’re after her, and that’s all you need to know to enjoy this little pulp culture exercise.
Fair Game will forever be remembered as Cindy Crawford’s first (and only) major film role. (She’s had a few parts in other films and TV, usually playing herself.) It’s painfully obvious she’s not a great actress; her expression is nonchalant, her delivery wooden.
I recall enjoying this film when I watched it with my three college roommates via VHS rental in late ’95 or early ’96, most likely cruising through a 6-pack of beer. Viewing it two decades later (without the beer), it’s easier to see how much of a stretch it was making Crawford a leading lady.
But you know what? It’s CINDY FRICKIN’ CRAWFORD! So we didn’t care. And neither did many others who pitched in for the $11.5M box office haul it earned in 1995.
For a certain portion of the population, it didn’t matter if the acting was subpar; the novelty of seeing one of the world’s most renowned models lead a film–a super model even!–elevated this typical chase thriller to a curiosity for the masses.
It feels odd remembering it as a major Hollywood offering when so many regard it as a trashy(ish) B movie today, probably thinking it was a straight-to-video release. But that wasn’t the case at all. Fair Game boasted a roughly $50M budget, and at the time Cindy Crawford was still an internationally known “brand” at the top of the supermodel game. (Forbes named her the highest paid model on the planet the same year this film was released.)
She was also no stranger to Hollywood, having been married to Richard Gere at the time (from 1991-95).
In Fair Game, first-time feature director Andrew Sipes (another example of the inexperience on display here) does what any green director would do in this case — focus on the action and make Crawford look good. And generally, the film delivers on that.
There are good action set pieces featuring spectacular explosions and stunt work, car chases, shootouts, and a tense sequence where Baldwin’s Kirkpatrick chases and boards a moving train. Later, there’s even the sinking of a giant ship! Sipes got his money’s worth out of that $50M budget, which elevated the proceedings from looking too cheap.
Structurally, the film works pretty well. And by that I mean it adheres to standard action formula of the time, which catered to moviegoers expecting as much. It never strays too far into the jumbled-up-funny territory your favorite non-major B-films do, despite the movie’s more recent reputation.
William Baldwin does fine as heroic cop Max Kirkpatric. In fact, he’s pretty good. I always remember him as one of the Baldwin brothers that isn’t Alec, and he seemed to alternate between roles in “decent” projects and trashier, lower budget fare. (Nothing wrong with that!)
Baldwin seems at ease in the role of Kirkpatrick. Had he began his career a decade earlier, he could have easily been a star of action films in the Bruce Willis mold. He exhibits a lazy cool charm and is a good counterbalance to Crawford’s inexperienced thesping.
In a small but memorable role, super-busy Salma Hayek portrays Kirkpatrick’s angry ex, who storms into the police station to argue with Kirkpatrick, embarrassing him in front of his friends. According to reports at the time, Hayek took the role after test audiences gave a negative reaction to Elizabeth Pena, who originally played the part in test screenings. (Pena’s name still somehow wound up on a trailer and some theatrical posters.) Hayek agreed to the part after telling producers she wanted to rewrite her scenes, apparently playing to what she thought her comedic strengths were at the time.
Along with Fair Game, Hayek had roles in three other films released in 1995, most notably Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado. (The others were a small part in Four Rooms and the Spanish-language El Callejón de los Milagros.)
Despite Sipes’ inexperience as director, he had a pretty solid cast surrounding him and Crawford. Other actors involved included Steven Berkoff as the heavy, a role he’d perfected as far back as Beverly Hills Cop and Octopussy. Though his character is written right out of the Weekday Cartoon Handbook for Bad Guys, he’s a ruthless SOB, and Berkoff is one of those actors who can play this type of role over and over.
Fair Game is actually based on a 1974 novel by Paula Gosling, originally called A Running Duck. (It was re-titled Fair Game in later printings.) And surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time the novel was sourced for a film to underwhelming results; Sylvester Stallone’s 1986 actioner Cobra also used the novel as source material.
Sly took some liberties with the story, rewriting much of it for his movie script version, but Gosling still scored a story credit. I watched Cobra and Fair Game back-to-back to better see what liberties were taken and how similar the films were. (You can read my review of Cobra here.) In particular, it’s fun to pay attention to Brigitte Nielsen, who plays the Cindy Crawford role in Cobra; she too was a relatively new, inexperienced actress at the time.
Fair Game was considered a flop in 1995, finishing 110th out of 280 movie releases that year. Crawford would next play a small role as a VIP patron in 54 (1998) and Baldwin would star in the black comedy Curdled in 1996.
I think it’s a shame Cindy Crawford didn’t continue her film career. She may never have been a great actress, but she would’ve improved. It’s also fun to wonder just what kind of film this had been if Geena Davis, Julianne Moore or Brooke Shields had been cast instead. (They all passed on the role before Crawford took it.)
Ultimately, Cindy Crawford would’ve been great as a queen of B-style action films had she continued doing them.
A barely remembered footnote in cinematic history except for hardcore formula action buffs and supermodel fans, Fair Game is not a good movie, but it sure is fun to watch!
Collectors looking for it will have to settle for the same crappy full-screen DVD released in 1999 that I have in my collection. Hopefully that will change some day.