Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

FAIR GAME (1995)

** Directed by Andrew Sipes. Written by Charlie Fletecher, from a novel by Paula Gosling. Photography, Richard Bowen. Editing, David Finfer, Christian Wagner, Steven Kemper. Production design, James Spencer. Music, Mark Mancina. Cast: William Baldwin, Cindy Crawford, Steven Berkoff, Salma Hayek, Christopher McDonald, A (Joel) Silver Production distributed by Warners. 89 minutes. Rated R (mayhem, killings, language).

A Candid Interview.

Q: Why did you go to see "Fair Game"?
A: Because there was nothing else to review.

Q: Come now, you wanted to ogle supermodel Cindy Crawford in her screen debut, right?
A: No. Prurient ocular tendencies are disappointed in any case, since there is a single, fleeting glimpse of Crawford's bust "au naturel." She is, however, in tight tops most of the time. And I expected no display of acting in this kind of movie. It is unfair to judge anyone who is mostly in fast-moving evasive actions. Garbo couldn't have acted in that part, nor Lombard, Streep, Lange, or you-name-her. Also, when it comes to looks, I think that the Mexican beauty Salma Hayek ("Desperado") is the real winner.

To my taste anyway. Q: OK, what's it all about?
A: Dade County, Florida lawyer Kate is the target of mysterious, former KGB agents led by Kazak (Steven Berkoff)-- for reasons one cannot fathom.

There's a belated explanation that's still a silly muddle. What's at stake is over 800 million dollars. The Kate-hunters include a woman who is deadlier than Lotte Lenya in "From Russia With Love." Q: Whom does Baldwin play?
A: Whom else? The super heroic, fast, invincible, unscathable police detective Max, who south of the border would be called "un hombre con cojones." To his credit he does not do a macho number. He meets cute with Kate in the interrogation room (not a bad scene), joins his fate to hers.

This is a one-theme movie, except for about three diversions. Rita (Hayek), Max's ex-girlfriend, makes a scene at the police station, later unloads Max's junk on the street below. Quite funny. At the station too, a man in a jail suit gets a gun and endangers all -- until Max tackles him. Q: I've a feeling I saw this just days ago. But where?
A: In "Copycat," also a Warner Bros. release. Call it the studio system.

Q: Is the action"deja vu"?
A: It has all the cliches you expect, plus more. Shootings, corpses, arsenals, unending bullets from Max's gun, chases, a helicopter, deafening noises, more chases, attacks, counterattacks, derring-do, stunts too stunning to believe... Typical of producer-Schlockmeister Joel Silver.

Q: You mean there's this horrible violence that's destroying our country?
A: Are you kidding? No one can take any of this seriously. The audience kept laughing. Imagine Max jumping into a swimming pool, in slow-motion no less, and at the same time getting off several shots with his handgun!

Imagine the good guys being chased by the killers who drive three black, electronics-laden Jeep Wagoneers that feel like three Darth Vaders on wheels. Q: Electronics you said?
A: Yes, they're the core and engine of the movie. The villains are computer geniuses. Their machines do things our computers couldn't even start thinking of, and they do it with the speed of light. No waiting for little screen clocks to finish spinning their hands.

Q: Do the electronic marvels impress you?
A: Here and in other techno-movies they remind me of the Greek mathematician Archimedes (he of "Eureka!" fame), referring to the lever and saying "Give me where to stand , and I will move the earth." Now we can say "Give me such equipment and I can get my next-door neighbor elected President of the United States."

Q: Are these scientific miracles superior to those in other films?
A: The special effects are very good. The villains and their gizmos beat even the C.I.A machines that progressively enlarge satellite photos in "Patriot Games." The pursuers can hear and see everything, also use sophisticated heat-sensors. They get information on people faster than in "The Net." To trap Crawford and Baldwin in a hotel that uses magnetic cards (electronic room keys), by remote control the KBGers cut off the precise source of current there, lock all the rooms. But our heroes somehow get out. The sinister people can also falsify documents and create anything they please in a flash. That's why, the moment an FBI man shows up to help, you know he's a fake, an impostor.

Q: Who are those former KGBers?
A: Only Allah in his wisdom knows. Berkoff, in a monotone performance, has an American accent. Much later it becomes what someone with a dead hearing-aid battery must have told him is a Russian accent. Finally it shifts to a lame attempt at a British accent.

Q: Any other goofs?
A: Lots. Aside from the plot not making sense, there are constantly impossible heroics and acrobatics. Max puts his car in cruise control and jumps onto a moving train. The car crashes and bursts into flames and Max lands in the wagon without a scratch. A screenful of bank names includes "Union de Bancs Suisses" instead of "Banques," which makes it the "Swiss Union of Benches." There's more.

Q: The most spectacular side of the movie?
A: Explosions of everything. They invariably become huge fireballs which, added together, would rival the fiery napalm ending of "Apocalypse Now." Our lovely couple is, of course, always a step ahead of the blasts.

Q: Do Baldwin and Crawford make love?
A: Did you ever doubt this, even before seeing the film? Don't you know that TV and movie cops are always handsome, bright and able? That both male and female leads are unattached?

Q: Any comic relief in addition to the Rita character?
A: The whole movie is so outrageous that it is spasmodically funny, at least until viewer fatigue sets in. There's an amusing scene of Kate -- who catches on fast -- at a computer store, vamping a young nerd into letting her use his equipment. The fellow's glasses steam up. When he says things like "I was playing with my joystick," "hard drive" or "hardware," Kate's ironical-provocative expression and voice turn the computer terms into sexual allusions. Crawford may deserve a comic role.

Q: Normally you rate movies severely, like recent ones that were more ambitious than "Fair Game." How come you gave it two stars?
A: Because it is unambitious and unpretentious. It is honest in its dumb, cartoonish, boom-boom lack of depth. When the video comes out, if you watch it from your bed, the film is so undemanding that it can be restful.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel