Some films are never going to be listed among the great achievements of cinema. Still, they will persist throughout the decades fondly remembered by fans, assigned to the category of cult classic or guilty pleasure. While many devotees of such movies, particularly those regularly attending genre specific conventions, will sit in conference rooms endless debating the minute details that distinguish the various designations. Regardless of the particular description that finally applied the overwhelming reason these movies are able to achieve such longevity, remaining in favor with the public is they are a lot of fun to watch. The ability to elicit enjoyment is, in such situations must be considered separately from the level of cinematic merits. One of the most notable examples is examined here, ‘Tank Girl’. This 1995 science fiction flick based on a popular underground comic is ultimately silly and nonsensical bordering on the surreal but as noted it remains a lot of fun to watch. There are times when you just have to set the higher reasoning portions of your mind in the off position and let that of your brain where the juvenile sections still reside and return to what first appealed to you and movies, the enjoyment that accompanies kicking back and watching a flick with no other expectations than a couple of hours escaping from reality and having fun. There are a number of movies that possesses the ability to do this for me but one that is firmly entrenched in this category, at least on a personal level is this movie. The reason this movie has come to my attention once again is after quite a long time as difficult to obtain movie Shout Factory, one of the greatest sources of memorable material, has released a high definition remastered collector’s edition. At long last, fans can retire those old VCR tapes made from late night cable TV broadcasts replacing it with the pristine audio and video specification of Blu-ray.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic Australia devastated by a comet resulted in a pronged and serve drought. This made potable water the most precious commodity imaginable. For over a decade water has become increasingly scarce and the meager amount that is available has been relegated to the tyrannical rule of, W&P, Water and Power. In this world this were water, the substance absolutely necessary for all forms of life, is in extremely meager supply the handful of people that seized control of water wield extraordinary power and unchallenged, draconian authority of the last remnants of the population. There is a historical basis for this situation. Throughout history diverting of restricting the availability of water was considered an act of war. During the western expansion in America such battle lines were established between the conflicting interests of farmers, ranchers and herdsmen.
Rebecca Buck (Lori Petty) was the name given at birth to the high spirited and extremely anti-establishment young woman who took on the nom de guerre of Tank Girl. After years of eking out an existence as a scavenger, i.e. an outlaw surviving by any means possible, the name Tank Girl was natural considering the most distinctive aspect of her life style, the vintage yet highly operational tank she calls home as well as her personal mobile engine of war.
This movie is just one of her many adventures depicted in the comic books that detailed Tank Girl’s life as she looks to survive in her constant fight against the tyrannical authority of the W&P. She is not concerned with any ideological concepts regarding the innate rights to life’s necessities. Rather her often violent displays of descent were born from the sheer necessity to survive. Fighting for a cause is noble and bolsters the resourcefulness of the human spirit all thank but when you’re thirsty, hungry and trapped in an endless wasteland running from a ruthless and power hungry enemy the basic necessity of live seem much more important. This simple fact drives the story and goes beyond establishing Tank Girl’s personality and motivators, it forms the underlying dynamic for every character defining the core set of circumstances. There are only two castes in the world; those that need water and those with it. There is no negotiation only force, the first group will fight to obtain water and the deadly means the others have to maintain possession and control.
Tank Girl does have the exasperating habit of demeaning her enemies especially when they have the have the upper hand. Her penchant for highly personalized insults and emasculating barbed comments during tense situations are a constant source of escalation when she is in trouble, which is de rigueur for her. In circumstances that would have most peopled cowering Tank Girl displays a toughness literally beaten into her during her entire life. She demonstrates a complete disregard for everything most notably her personal safety. With all of this Tank Girl has a cadre of trusted friends and allies. The one closest to being considered her boyfriend is Booga (Jeff Kober) the leader of a pack of mutated kangaroos that roam the outback, one of his trusted lieutenants’ of T-Saint played here by one-time hard core rapper with the controversial single ‘Cop Killer’, Ice-T. They were part of a recombinant DNA experiment to creator super soldiers with the native Kangaroo traits spliced in. in the film TG is aided by her closest friend, Jet Girl. The actress selected to bring this popular character to life on the screen is Naomi Watts in one of her earliest film roles in a still growing career. Jet is a shy, geek girl with a genius for understanding anything mechanical; not only did she steal the parts necessary to build her very own fighter jet but she greatly enhanced Tank Girl’s armored ride. Had MTV survived the comet strike Jet Girl would have a hit show called Pimp your armored ride.
The arch villain in this portion of the Tank Girl legend is Kesslee a senior executive in W&P and all round sadist. Few actors can play this level of maniacal pure evil with such abandon yet never yielding to surrender to the temptation to go over the top of villainy like Malcolm McDowell. Yes, he has played noble characters motivated by the highest moral standings but the roles he is best remembered for are his purely nefarious dark hearts of his bad guys. This role ranks up there among a wide selection of bad guys. In a lesser role yet still outstandingly creepy is the aptly moniker given to Rat Face played by Iggy Pop.
What contributed heavily to the persistent cult status of this film are the wise crakes and one liner zingers Tank Girl constantly throws at her adversaries. One time when about be forced to girl a solider oral sex she demands a magnifying glass and tweezers. Then during an attempted rape, she rapes her kegs around her assailant’s head and snaps his neck. TG utilizes sex not only as a weapon but as to humiliate her opponents. If you are interested as to why Ms Petty was so ideal for role take a watch off her autobiographical directorial film featuring Jennifer Lawrence as Lori, ‘Poker House’. The bottom line is although this film is flawed it remains a fascinating mélange of satire, absurdist humor and surrealism you are every likely to ever see. I have enjoyed this movie in college theaters, worn out video tape and DVD but it finally watch it better than I could ever have imagined it is an exceptional treat. This is fun but also a piece of cinematic history and personal memories.
Posted 11/10/2013 07/27/2016