Release Date: March 31, 1995
Based on: Tank Girl (comic by Jamie Hewlett & Alan Martin)
Directed by: Rachel Talalay
Starring: Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts, Malcolm McDowell
Budget: $25 Million
Box Office: $6 million
In the year 2033, 11 years after Earth was struck by a comet, water is a scarce resource controlled by Water & Power. Rebecca, a member of a resistance group stealing water, must save her friend Sam who is captured when their hideout is attacked.
With its strange and quirky tone, it's easy to see how Tank Girl gained a cult following. A film like this should be a fun, bizarre and entertaining romp through a post-apocalyptic world.
However, its failure to do so turn it into a cinematic disaster where it feels as if the filmmakers were just trying to figure out what is cool and forcing the film to fit their ideas. As such, the film tries much too hard to be something it's not and suffers.
As soon as the plot starts getting anywhere, whole scenes shift styles, turning from live action to comic book animation. Done well, these animated sequences could be visually interesting. Nonetheless, they feel like padding and void any sense of immersion. It would be one thing if the film began and ended with these. Yet, they are interspersed too many times throughout its hour and 44 minute runtime. Notably, the opening and closing animation sequences are actually the best ones.
Watts and Petty also seemed to know how weird of a film they were starring in and just tried to have fun with it. Their two characters are the best parts too, with them having a good dynamic. Rebecca is the outgoing, boisterous, and adventurous type who really doesn’t care what happens as long as she gets Sam back. On the other hand, Watts’ character, Jet Girl, serves as the level headed voice of reason who tries and constantly fails to reel Rebecca in. This is perfectly seen in the end when the two defeat Water and Power, unleash the water they were hoarding and Rebecca’s tank is floating down the new river at high speeds with a Ripper (mutant kangaroo person) water skiing behind it. Jet Girl warns her of an upcoming waterfall/cliff and Rebecca just tells her to quit ruining her fun.
Nevertheless, the overseer of Water and Power, Kesslee, is incredibly incompetent for a villain of his magnitude. There is one sliver of land his forces have not captured and even though he already owns all the land around it, he finds that not controlling it is the perfect reason to kill the captain of his men. Furthermore, his loyal doctor wasn't able to repair his face after it was blown off in a Ripper ambush and had her killed. It’s possible he might have been victorious in the end had he not killed everyone at Water and Power with any degree of competence. The way he met his demise made no sense either. Rebecca tries to punch him, except he was downloaded into a holographic projection and declares despite being able to harm her, she cannot harm him. This would make for a decent enough climax had Rebecca not been able to spend the next few minutes actually able to physically harm the projection. It could be possible he only meant his face or was trying to dissuade her, but the way it plays out is just one example of the bad writing plaguing this film.
On the other hand, Kesslee did have one good part about him: the weapon he used to kill people. Since water is so scarce, he has a device he can stick in people’s backs which drains the water from their bodies. In spite of everything else about being either incompetent or ineffectual, this device is just plain cruel and monstrous and is perfect for him as a villain.
Still, a decently devious method of killing people along with two good characters played by actors who have good chemistry together aren't enough to salvage an overall weak film.