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Riot Grrrl In The 21st Century

June 16th, 2010 · 1 Comment

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In the month of June, Joe Valdez “takes over” programming of the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles with a series of double features on his favorite film themes.

Here’s Part 2 of a bill featuring super heroines.

Tank Girl 1995 poster A Tank Girl 1995 poster B

Tank Girl (1995)
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Written by Tedi Sarafian, based on the comic strip created by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett
Produced by Richard B. Lewis, Pen Densham, John Watson
104 minutes

To say that everything about Tank Girl works except for the script and the casting is another way to say that the movie doesn’t work at all, but this $25 million adaptation of the cutting edge British comic strip conjures a punk rock anarchy that not many big budget movies have the balls to go for. Director Rachel Talalay optioned the film rights to the Tank Girl comic strip appearing in the U.K.’s Deadline magazine, later published in the States by Dark Horse Comics. She pitched the property to Lightstorm Entertainment, then Amblin Entertainment, but neither James Cameron nor Steven Spielberg’s bunch were hip to the material. Talalay found a fan at MGM/UA in Alan Ladd, but by the time her picture began test screening, new studio management plucked the “hate me” pedal off the Tank Girl flower. It’s since cultivated a much deserved cult following on DVD.

The optimal audience for Tank Girl may be teenagers discovering punk rock or ska for the first time; the soundtrack featuring Devo, Iggy Pop, Björk and Hole is superlative. Where the movie suffers is casting. Despite the presence of Naomi Watts, the likes of Lori Petty, Ice-T and Malcolm McDowell indicates that filling roles became an act of desperation. Petty was a last minute replacement for Emily Lloyd, an OCD sufferer who refused to shave her head for the part. Out on a limb for its time, the riot grrrl heroine of Tank Girl and her gleeful irreverence are more cogent today as a unique blend of Gwen Stefani and Bart Simpson. Rachel Talalay’s lively mash-up of live action and animation pushes the set design by Catherine Hardwicke and costumes by Arianne Phillips into the foreground — Tank Girl has 27 wardrobe changes — while incidentals like story get shoved off a cliff, just like the comic.

Tank Girl 1995 title card

In the year 2033, the cataclysmic impact of a comet has transformed the Earth into a giant sandbox. Survivors are at the mercy of the WP, an evil conglomerate that controls the planet’s water. WP’s interests are threatened by an elusive band of mutant kangaroo/human hybrids known as Rippers. Out of this wasteland on the back of a yak rides Rebecca (Lori Petty), a blonde skinhead with whirlwind fighting skills and a motormouth to match. Rebecca lives in a commune with her surrogate daughter Sam (Stacy Linn Ramsower) siphoning water illegally. Raided by WP commandos, Rebecca kills eight and is taken before Keslee (Malcolm McDowell), the megalomaniac who runs WP. Offered a job, Rebecca declines colorfully and is sentenced to hard labor in the WP mines, where she meets a mousy jet mechanic named Jet (Naomi Watts).

Freed from captivity after a Ripper raid, Rebecca and Jet confiscate a tank and a fighter jet respectively. A visit to an abandoned water park leads to an encounter with Sub Girl (Ann Cusack), who allows the ladies to customize their vehicles. Tank Girl and Jet Girl are born. Discovering that Sam is alive and in the custody of WP, the dynamic duo plots a rescue mission. They seek the help of the Rippers (Ice-T, Reg E. Cathey, Scott Coffey) whose base is revealed to be an old bowling alley. Tank Girl and Jet Girl pass their initiation rites and Tank Girl even falls in love with one of the mutant kangaroos, the dim witted Booga (Jeff Kober). Meanwhile, the evil Keslee has recovered from the raid by the Rippers with a new cybernetic arm and face and is revealed to be luring Tank Girl into a trap.

Tank Girl 1995

Tank Girl 1995 Lori Petty

Tank Girl 1995

Tank Girl 1995 Naomi Watts

Tank Girl 1995 Lori Petty

Tank Girl 1995 Ann Magnuson Lori Petty

Tank Girl 1995

Tank Girl 1995 Lori Petty Naomi Watts

Tank Girl 1995 Reg E. Cathey Lori Petty Ice T Jeff Kober

Tank Girl 1995

Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 326 users: 37% for Tank Girl

Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: Not available

What do you say?

Tags: Alternate universe · Animation · Based on comic strip · Cult favorite · Dreams and visions · End of the world · Interrogation · Woman in jeopardy

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 J.D. // Jan 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    “The optimal audience for Tank Girl may be teenagers discovering punk rock or ska for the first time”

    This made me laugh is probably true. This film is definitely a guilty pleasure. It’s a big unholy mess of a film but I like Lori Petty’s energy and the chemistry between her and Naomi Watts is good. Plus, all that alt-rock music doesn’t hurt either. Whenver I see the animated sequences in this film I wonder if a much better film would’ve been an entirely animated one and that way you could’ve gotten around the dopey looking Ripper makeup.

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