[Editor's Note: In Sinful Cinema, the House looks back at so-bad-they're-kinda-good movies that have been forgotten for a reason. You call them guilty pleasures; we call them rightfully buried treasures.]
"You wanna watch headline news with me? No? It's not gonna kill ya." This is what Miami attorney Kate McQuean (Cindy Crawford) says to her cat just before clicking on the the television, detonating a bomb that leaves pussy and apartment incinerated, and sends Kate soaring over her balcony and into a boat-filled inlet. It's one of countless bullet-to-the-brain lines in 1995's Fair Game, a damsel-in-distress disasterpiece that marked Crawford's big screen debut. Not to be confused with Naomi Watt's 2010 CIA vehicle, which, by comparison, looks like some kind of espionage classic, this second adaptation of Paula Gosling's novel (the first being the 1986 Stallone dud Cobra) is the sort of movie that shocks viewers as they learn it's in no way aiming for camp. When I recently rewatched it at home (yes, I own it), and got to the scene in which Kate seduces a computer store employee who's "fiddling with his joystick," my partner did a whip-around from the next room, demanding to know if this movie was for real. "Just wait," I replied. Kate goes on to tell Adam, the dumbfounded nerd in this technologically ancient flick, that she's not interested in software, but "hardware," and that she "was hoping to demo [his] unit." Granted, this is one of few scenes in the film that, however puerile, is intentionally ironic, but it's also one of many to highlight Crawford's outright horrendous acting, which is defined by line readings that seem punctuated by periods. "I'm. out. I'm. gone. I'm. just. going. to. get. away. from. all. of. this!" Kate barks in monotone to Det. Max Kirkpatrick (William Baldwin), the cop who winds up protecting her from a team of Russian assassins. That's right: Crawford, it turns out, had the jump on the meme generation in regard to "Best. _____. Ever." accentuation.
One of the reasons that translations of Gosling's book seem doomed to fail is the mishmash plot, a convoluted mess that, in this case, is far too demanding for such rinky-dink filmmaking. Aiming for worldly politics that hover miles above its head, the story has something to do with an ex-KGB colonel, Ilya Kazak (Steven Berkoff), who was in bed with a Cuban radical, Emilio Juantorena (Miguel Sandoval), who was married to a client represented by Kate, who wants some big boat, the Tortuga, in place of Juantorena's unpaid alimony. But don't fall asleep. The narrative is so secondary to the rest of this stinking heap of missteps that one needn't even try to follow it. What's much more fun to notice are the gaping holes in logic, and the ever-rewarding stream of imbecilic dialogue. Kate and Max meet when she's shuffled to police headquarters after being grazed by a stray bullet, an event that caps off an opening jog, one of many bits to highlight Crawford boobage. Instantly, the love/hate pair are like Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, if the age-old stars had gotten their start on a Spice Channel soap opera. Burdened by one another (she's too busy; he's preoccupied by a crazy ex-girlfriend, played by Salma Hayek), the two take turns hurling tawdry, god-awful zingers, and that's before they have to hole up together in a crackhouse-turned-safehouse. "I. feel. like. my. life. just. exploded." Kate says. "What. is. this. place? Motel. Hell?" Before long, they're running across Florida trying to evade Kazak and his goons, their only weapon being Max's Beretta 92, the limitless clips for which he must keep in his rectum, seeing as all he ever wears is jeans and a T-Shirt.
When I was a teenager, and devoured this film as part of the Warner Bros./Joel Silver collabo heyday (Assassins, another joint effort from the entities, was released that same year), I had a Beretta 92 as well. It was a pink and green water pistol of startling molded detail, and you can bet I did my best Max Kirkpatrick on the roof of the family's parked car, telling the imaginary Kate in the driver's seat to "zig" when the enemy "zagged." I did not, however, attempt any simulation of the film's famously stupid sex scene, wherein Kate and Max end a passionate scuffle with some nookie in a train car, and Kate—after Crawford's breasts and Baldwin's bum have been sufficiently flashed—grabs her protector's pistol and guns down a sniper. It's at this point that the enemy entourage pulls the stupidest movie trick, kidnapping an extra-vulnerable Kate after spending more than 70 minutes trying to kill her on sight. It opens the door for Max (who was thrown from the train, momma) to finally follow the bad guys to the boat they all keep babbling about, and try to rescue Kate while getting an earful of Kazak's stock manifesto.
So what's left to love about Fair Game? Besides the glut of one-liners that could occupy any critic's entire word count (like when Juantorena reads Kazak, saying something about "pulling bananas out of his ass" in Havana)? Well, there's a reason this is the sole directorial effort of Andrew Sipes, whose otherwise only known for scripting TV shows like Spenser: For Hire. The movie's penultimate shot is of a wet-tank-top-clad Crawford, and the sight of her pert nipples is paired with the Miami champagne-room soundtrack. Beyond being asinine and unwittingly cryptic, the film is also a slice of unintentional sleaze. But there's some genuine joy tucked between the faux pas, like two back-to-back set pieces—a car chase and a death-defying train pursuit—that are rather breathless and well-conceived. Trailer hitches, blazing station wagons, and bazookas come into play, and what's more, you get to hear Crawford's hilarious wails of fright, and marvel at her stupefying looks of concern. More squirrel-in-labor than deer-in-the-headlights, the model-turned-actress-turned-casting-director-blacklistee stares down danger with agonizing awkwardness, leaving Baldwin (he of salacious gems like Sliver) to pick up all the actorly slack. Watching it now, Fair Game exhibits whole new levels of amusement, since, like The Net (a probable future Sinful Cinema candidate), it's instantly dated as a film about the "jaw-dropping" dawn of cyber surveillance. (Don't use that credit card, Kate!) And who doesn't welcome the presence of Jenette Goldstein, James Cameron's Aliens and T2 ass-kicker, who squares off with Baldwin as Kazak's head henchwoman? Clad in black and ready to kill, Goldstein's villainess knocks Max down in their climactic fight, and spews a line that, at said point, could just as well be hollered at the audience: "Aww, did that hurt? Let mommy kick it and make it better!"