The Film: Tank Girl (1995) Buy it from CHUD!
The Principals: Rachel Talalay (director), Lori Petty, Malcolm McDowell, Naomi Watts, Don Harvey, Ice-T, Jeff Kober, Reg E. Cathey, James Hong, and Iggy Pop.
The Premise: A tank-wielding smart-ass chick takes on an evil water-hoarding corporation in a post-apocalyptic world.
Is It Good? No, but I had a lot of fun with it. Malcolm McDowell has a handheld weapon that kills you by removing all of the water from your body into a collapsible cup. There are mutant kangaroo people and one of them is Ice-T. Said kangaroo dudes (kangarudes?) use nitrous oxide to interrogate people. Naomi Watts is epically cute. The film constantly cuts to comic book panels and occasional animated sequences. There is a musical number in a whorehouse. James Hong has a translation device that makes him sound like a little girl. It also contains a tank (a sentient one at that!) which, according to the friend who convinced me to watch this, is always a mark of a great film.
Tank Girl is entertainingly bad and the kind of film that is perfect for viewing with a group of friends. It has a nice cast that all give good performances, even if a few are wrongheaded. It is easily a better film than Rachel Talalay’s directorial debut, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. That film proved that just because you have produced multiple entries in a franchise, it doesn’t mean that you know how to make a good one yourself. I don’t care what anyone says, Freddy’s Dead is the worst entry in the Nightmare franchise…including the remake. What few things work in Freddy’s Dead mostly revolve around the performances and the exact same can be said of this. It is the source material and the actors that shine here, not the director. It really is no wonder that Talalay has yet to direct a fourth theatrical effort. She is a far better producer than filmmaker and that is the role in which she should remain. The best example of the kind of film this is that I can give is Jeff Kober’s character, Booga. He is a dog that was turned into a human that was turned into a half-human, half kangaroo super soldier who ends up sleeping with Lori Petty’s Tank Girl. ‘Nuff said.
Is It Worth A Look? It depends on how you view the “Cinematic Soulmates” I have listed below. Three of them are good movies, at least in my eyes. The rest? Well, they might be crap…but they are FUN crap. Say what you will about their overall quality and their merits as adaptations, but they are NEVER dull. That, unfortunately, is something recent films with similarly crazy concepts (Battleship, Cowboys & Aliens) cannot claim. I feel the same way about Tank Girl. It’s not perfect, but it is a fun punk-flavored comic adaptation that is not afraid to revel in its sillier aspects. If that appeals to you, then give this one a look at some point. If not, then continue ignoring it and go on with your life.
Random Anecdotes: SFX maestro Stan Winston was so in love with the project that his studio did their work for half their usual fee.
Three of the Spice Girl auditioned for the title role.
Both Steven Spielberg and James Cameron had previously flirted with adapting the source material.
Tank Girl asks Ice-T’s character what he was in his former life. “A cop” was his answer. Is T-Saint a mutated Detective Fin Tutoala? I leave that for you to decide.
Cinematic Soulmates: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984), Double Dragon (1994), Escape From LA (1996), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), Street Fighter (1994), Judge Dredd (1995), and Super Mario Bros. (1993).