Retro Review: ‘Tank Girl’
During the late 80’s through the 90’s comic adaptations were not solely for mainstream superheroes. Hollywood struck gold with properties like; the Crow, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Blade, and the Mask. Though one comic adaptation famously did not achieve this status and upon it’s release bombed with critics and audiences alike. Though as time passed this flick developed a small but devoted following which has only grown over time and is due a look from a fresh perspective. That film is the 1995 cult classic Tank Girl.
In the future the ecology of planet earth is ruined by a comet-caused disaster. In this new world, the evil Water & Power seizes control of all the water they can. In their pursuit of power they cross paths with a tough and screwy woman named Rebecca. After kidnapping a girl she shares a bond with and killing everyone else she is close to, Rebecca knows it’s time for payback. She steals one of their tanks which she personalizes in order to take the fight to Water & Power. Joining forces with her sidekick Jet Girl and a community of human/kangaroo hybrids known as Rippers, the woman known as Tank Girl fights back.
In an era where comic-based flicks are made to be clean crisp CGI-laden spectacles with massive budgets, it is refreshing to see one made with a loud and vibrant punk rock energy. Director Rachel Talalay does not shy away from out-there weirdness of it all but rather embraces it. She pulls every trick she can think of out of her bag of movie making tricks and throws it all on the screen for the audience. Talalay even goes so far as to intertwine comic based animation into the film to carry the narrative at many of the more exaggerated and over-the-top moments. For a director such as this it was not enough to simply feature mutant kangaroos in the film, rather she was adamant that reputable actors were cast in the roles and they wear make-up fx which allow their personalities to be conveyed. This leads to Tank Girl being the kind of movie where nothing is off the table in terms of gonzo weirdness.
The cast of Tank Girl seem not to have any qualms about this tone and ham it up to perfection. It all starts at the top with Rebecca AKA Tank Girl herself Lori Petty who is absolutely hysterical in her manic performance. She says and does anything that pops into her head no matter what the repercussions might be. Her character is one who did not set out to be a superhero or anything of the like, rather she is an accidental antihero thanks to the evils of Water & Power. Along the way she finds the ideal sidekick in Naomi Watts’ Jet Girl who is meek and quiet enough to be the perfect springboard for her lunacy. Tank Girl’s equally hammy foil is character actor as B-movie legend Malcolm McDowell who, much like Raul Julia in Street Fighter, knows what kind of movie he is in and is obviously having a blast chewing up scenery as a grandiose baddy.
Tank Girl is anarchy-driven madcap fun the likes of which is rarely seen in film. It is bold, brash and strange while being completely unapologetic for what it is. Sadly many of those involved with the film feel embarrassed by it, but that has not curtailed the love it’s cult audience has for it. Word has recently been let out that Margot Robbie is going to attempt a remake of the film (because if there’s one thing we don’t have enough of right now it’s remakes and reboots) but I can not help but feel that this film was lightning in a bottle. Any attempts to recapture what made it great would probably only come off as a pale imitation. If you have bought into the hype that this is a ‘’bad movie” do yourself a favor and go see it and make up your own mind.