"If I were 15, I'd think this movie was a work of genius," said Kevin, the friend with whom I watched this.
A bizarre hybrid of Mad Max, Heavy Metal, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tank Girl is above all a very SILLY movie. You certainly wouldn't look to it for rigorous scientific extrapolation, nor for sheer explosions-per-minute like your typical action-adventure vehicle. But if you've seen all four of the movies above, and laughed in the right places at each, Tank Girl may be your perfect movie, despite having been almost universally panned.
Granted, the acting varies widely. Lori Petty (Rebecca, the Tank Girl) is very well-suited to her role as one to whom obstacles are irrelevant and sarcasm is second nature; my complaint would be that her voice seems too high sometimes - she squeaks! On the other hand, that childlike innocence (toting semiautomatic weaponry) was emphasized by that high chirp. Malcolm McDowell (Kesslee, the villain) (no, it's not spoiling anything at all to say that) is over any top you care to name - although his performance here has been compared favorably with his turn in Generations, it's still pretty overwrought. The bit with the water pistol, though, was priceless. Naomi Watts (Jet) does extremely well as Becky's technician sidekick, and her accent (one of the few actual Australian-sounding voices in the movie) is to die for. Ice-T, who apparently received second billing, wasn't in the movie much, but his performance added bite to what really were rather silly costumes. There's an interesting cameo by a remarkably well-preserved Iggy Pop, and James Hong does an intriguing twist on his role from Blade Runner ("Nexus Six! I do you eyes!").
The fx were... adequate. Some of the matte paintings (especially the one during the opening sequence, just after the credits) look like, well, matte paintings, but the later vistas were more realistic, the explosions were well-done and the makeup always intriguing. Where this movie really shines is in set design... the effects of the collapse of civilization are brought out well, I thought, by the amount of bricolage (the picking up and reusing of elements from different places, for new purposes). It seems very plausible to me that a small number of survivors, surrounded by the material wealth of the planet, would pick up and use whatever was suitable and interesting, rather than mount a dedicated search for the "right" part, and the design of the commune, the flyers and the tank bear this out.
A big deal has been made about the "animation" in this movie, but most of the animation... wasn't. (I don't consider fast pans across still pictures "animation", no matter how many there are in a second.) On the other hand, the animation that was included was first-rate, very smooth-flowing and inventive. Besides, I'm a sucker for a certain kind of gonzo animation - Better Off Dead springs to mind. (Anybody know what Savage Steve Holland is doing now?)
Then there's the music, which is actually quite good - again, if you're looking for a movie that's not afraid to laugh at itself - especially given that "Courtney Love-Cobain" (not a name she used during Kurdt's life, as I recall) is the Executive Soundtrack Coordinator. I must say that the Theme from Shaft was the perfect choice for the spot it showed up in. The only real annoyance was Devo's lethargic cover of their own song, Girl U Want, during the opening credits. I would have preferred the original, or even the good cover by Superchunk or Soundgarden, whoever it was. The other musical choices seemed to work for me, although for the most part they didn't "fit" the way audiences have been trained to expect. I can't help but see this as a good thing, but Your Mileage, as they say, May Vary.
Tank Girl sprawls across the screen... it contains a lot of irrelevance. The production number in Liquid Silver, an admittedly overblown piece of work, is one such. But there's a lot of humor there, too, much of it due to Petty's performance... her complaint about the straitjacket surprised me into laughing out loud.
All in all, this movie was worth the matinee price I paid to see it. I'd recommend it to anyone willing to go into it with the right expectations - if you're wanting a Total Recall, look elsewhere. But if you want something quirky, funny and sly, with enough sex and violence to stir the 15-year-old in you to frothing air-guitar frenzies, look to your local mall for Tank Girl. But look quickly - the reception this movie's garnered means it'll be hitting the video stores and the cult movie houses before too much longer. Obviously, this reference is dated; you'll have to find it in your local video store or cult movie house now, because Tank Girl tanked.
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