Tank Girl Review

Tank Girl is a 1995 science fiction action comedy film directed by Rachel Talalay, starring Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts, and Malcolm McDowell.  Based on the comic series Tank Girl by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett, the film is set in drought-ravaged Autralia and follows Tank Girl (Petty) as she, Jet Girl (Watts), and genetically modified supersolders called the Rippers fight “Water & Power”, an oppressive corporation led by Kessless (McDowell).


Positives:

  • Good amount of humor
  • Great soundtrack
  • Pretty awesome characters
  • Good performance by Petty
  • Good performance by Watts
  • Good performance by McDowell
  • Entertaining action

Negatives:

  • Lackluster story
  • Special effects could be better
  • Lackluster performances
  • Lackluster characters
  • Cheesy humor
  • Poorly written script

Plot: A girl is among the few survivors of a dystopian Earth. Riding a war tank, she fights against the tyranny of a mega-corporation that dominates the remaining potable water supply of the planet. This story is interesting but that is some problems with the execution. Water & Power’s influence over the land and the people is an interesting premise as well as the Rippers who attempt to overthrow him. The story is pretty exciting and takes no time into diving into this post-apocalyptic world as we follow our heroine, Rebecca, on her many adventures.  Rebecca struggling to rescue her friend Sam is actually a pretty solid story.   There are some moments that allow the characters to develop and grow.  However, it does any kind of depth. (2 out of 5)

Characters:  The characters are a bit of a mixed bag but there isn’t to say that they’re any good ones.  Rebecca Buck (Petty) is a pretty cool protagonist and her crazy, rebellious personality does make her stand out. She becomes friends with Jet Girl (Watts), a talented but introverted jet mechanic working for W&P.  She is also a pretty interesting character and does develop throughout the course of the film. They have good chemistry together and it becomes more solid as during the progression of the film. Sam (Ramsower) is a likable character who is Rebecca’s friend.  Kesslee (McDowell) is highly entertaining antagonist although a bit corner. Despite being somewhat of a stereotypical villain he has a lot of personality that just makes him enjoyable to watch and the banter between him and Rebecca is just hilarious especially as they constantly try to one up each other. The Rippers are interesting but the film does not flush all of them out enough. The most pronounced is Booga (Kober) who is likable, T-Saint (Ice-T) who’s a douchebag, Deetee (Cathey) who is cool beans, and possibly Donner (Coffey) who’s a pervert, unfortunately the rest are just there. There’s this one guy, Sergeant Small (Harvey), who is a complete dick to Jet Girl. And he gets his just rewards. (3 out of 5)

Cast: The film does feature a good cast although the performances aren’t as memorable. Lori Petty does a fantastic job as Rebecca though she can be pushing it at times.  Naomi Watts gives the most emotional depth of the cast and does a decent job.  Malcolm McDowell is just as crazy and over-the-top as Petty and it’s great seeing their dynamic.  Featured in supporting roles are Brian Wimmer (Richard), Stacy Linn Ramsower (Sam), Ann Cusack (Sub Girl), Iggy Pop (Rat Face), Ann Magnuson (The Madame), Jeff Kober (Booga), Scott Coffey (Donner), Ice-T (T-Saint), Reg E. Cathey (Deetee), James Hong (Che’tsai), and Don Harvey (Sergeant Small). (3 out of 5)

Visuals:  The film does feature some decent special effects. The practical effects look decent especially the kangaroo outfits and some designs which could have been done a little bit better such as the mobility which looks really stiff at times. What makes the kangaroo outfits look bad is the fact that they look clumsy the prosthetics look. The CGI, of course definitely looks dated especially compared to today’s standards though not as bad as some movies. The set designs were actually pretty good.  The action is actually shot pretty well and is entertaining.  There is the incorporation of comic book elements such as transitions and scenes to help make it feel like a comic book.  Some problems that I noticed were some of the visible wires during the jump scenes with the Rippers.  But all-in-all, the visuals are decent.  (3 out of 5)

Score: This soundtrack is probably the most prominent feature of the film and it’s just terrific. Definitely helps the action.  Ann Magnuson performing Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It” helped give the film a light-hearted feel.  Thumbs up to both Graeme Revell and Courtney Love for a great soundtrack. (4 out of 5)

Writing: Admittedly despite the entertainment the script is quite piss poor. The premise of the comics is good at its core with good illustration but doesn’t translate well into live-action. Because of the over-the-top nature of the source material many sequences which could have been represented better had it been a little bit more grounded did not turn out so well, which happens to be around that period when video game and comic book movies were just ridiculous. Now, it does manage to bring a lot of great humor as well as great action but the story really isn’t immersive enough to make it engaging nor memorable.  It does touch on themes concerning women’s rights though it doesn’t fully flesh them out. Now, I’m not going to bash Rachel Talalay for the direction of the film because it was fun and didn’t take itself too seriously.  However, the film could’ve taken a better road in its storytelling and characters.  (2 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, Tank Girl is a pretty entertaining film that is far from perfect.  It has a crap ton of problems such as lackluster characters, performances, direction, special effects, and bad script.  However, the film does features good performances by Petty, Watts, and McDowell, great action, awesome soundtrack, and an interesting story. Tank Girl gets 3 out of 5.

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