Forgotten Friday Flick – “Tank Girl”

We’ve recently touched upon dramatic work, suspense cinema and even a little horror for the genre fans all under the watchful eye of women.  Feels about time for a past picture with some sassy superhero fun – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick!  Today we’re loading up and putting it in gear for a blast from the past that proves that a spirited gal does indeed rule the roost.  Armed with merely quick quips and a rebellious nature (oh, and yes a very big and cool monster tank!), this week’s selection features one lethal lady in charge who knows how to have fun.  Water and power, genetically modified supersoldiers, a long and deadly shrinking pipe, a gigantic jet and one metal vehicle with some very decorative modifications – all play things for the feisty female known as Tank Girl!

It’s 2033 and the Australian outback has become an almost waterless desert.  Thanks in part to a comet striking the Earth causing a massive drought and the sheer greed of the ruthless big corporation Water & Power, the life sustaining liquid is in very short supply.  Rebecca Buck is a sassy girl who along with her commune has managed to tap into one of the last deep wells and temporarily outsmart the powers that be.  But soon armed to the teeth big business comes knocking and not only wipes out most of the group, but takes Rebecca personal prisoner.  Proving that a bad girl cannot be broken, she endures punishment, eventually escapes and teams up with a meek but equally determined skilled mechanic named Jet Girl.  But in the process she also comes across the one thing that can help in her fight and strangely completes her – and Tank Girl is born.

Sounds a bit like a description of a Saturday morning cartoon, which is fitting here seeing as Tank Girl is most assuredly a ruckus comic book come to life.  Told with both live action and illustrated caricatures, Director Rachel Talalay utilizes a wild cinematic style to make the film both memorable and befitting of her lead character’s movie moxie.  From her crazed camera work (she’s got the Raimi montage down pat!), tasty transitions (love the on-screen comic strip accompaniments!), grandiose set pieces (the musical number at Liquid Silver is to die for!) and a gaggle of foot stomping female centric songs that scream rebellion (Hole, Joan Jett and Björk anyone!), Talalay’s Tank Girl is a celebration of female go for broke cinema gone wild.  (Her production designer here is future Twilight helmer Catherine Hardwicke!)  It’s a tactic that could definitely have proved distracting for movies featuring more somber superheroes, but the audacity of Tank Girl makes such an over-the-top and out there vibe feel strangely fitting.  (The Stan Winston created half human, half kangaroo featured Rippers don’t even seem out of place in this heightened world!)

Even the characters, while effective in their various guises, chew the scenery with joyful abandon that works.  A Clockwork Orange alum Malcolm McDowell as the resident baddie, James “Lo Pan” Hong as a mad scientist, Ice-T as the bitter leader of the Rippers, Ann Magnuson as the madam of Liquid Silver and even an early in her career Naomi Watts as the quiet Jet Girl all bring playfulness to the proceedings.  (Special note – normal bad guy heavy Jeff Kober almost steals the film as the innocent and inquisitive Ripper Booga!)

But of course as is always the case with any film worth its cinematic salt, it is the titular Tank Girl herself Lori Petty that makes the film run at maximum speed.  Her tough pixie persona, from her gleeful vocal pitch to her inspired clothes and crazed hair styles put on full display, proves what most who admire her great on-screen work have always suspected – she was born to play this role.

It’s curious how after making two good films previous to Tank Girl (see both Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and Ghost In the Machine!), like previous featured female helmer Jennifer Lynch, Talalay went on to do a ton of TV work.  (Am I seeing a pattern – what gives?!)  Not that her foray into that arena wasn’t notable (she helmed some Doctor Who people!), but I always dug the colorful splash and style Talalay brought to the big screen.  And even though Tank Girl got mixed response when it arrived, I always thought it was one damn fine comicbook movie, I just think y’all weren’t ready for it.  Give it another shot naysayers – this gutsy gal ages like a fine wine.


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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