Tank Girl

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Tank Girl
"This all-singing, all-dancing, big gun blazing, kangaroo-fucking anarchist had a style that was all her own."

25 years ago, long before Harley Quinn set her stamp on the big screen, when post-apocalyptic wastelands were the domain of Mad Max and A Boy And His Dog with Fury Road nowhere in sight, comic book chyx knew their place in cinema: firmly in the background, with few scraps of clothing and even fewer lines. Then Tank Girl came along. And though she may have owed something to the kick-ass attitude of Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley or the glamour of Modesty Blaise, this all-singing, all-dancing, big gun blazing, kangaroo-fucking anarchist had a style that was all her own.

Now enjoying an anniversary screening at the Glasgow Film Festival, Tank Girl exists in a world that is rapidly catching up. We may not, as yet, have a single corporation in charge of all our water and power; we may not have blasted everything into dust; but we're getting there. We've surpassed the fake comic book pedigree of films like Ultraviolet and there are now many social spaces in which Lori Petty's fierce, ragged heroine would not look out of place. Fortunately, Petty's forceful performance and the film's sheer energy have enabled it to retain something of its original power. It may not be great art but it still makes its presence felt.

Copy picture

The story, such as it is, follows our heroine's adventures after the commune where she lives is raided, its residents accused of stealing water and power, and she is taken prisoner. Escaping with the aid of the shy young mechanic who comes to be known as Jet Girl (a young Naomi Watts, delivering the closest thing the film gets to a naturalistic performance), she hooks up with a gang of ex-military kangaroo mutants (whose leader is played by Ice-T) and enlists their help to take on Malcolm McDowell's gurning villain. Along the way there's a child who needs to be rescued, a Cole Porter number and a lot of graffiti-stained tank-based action.

As on of the first action heroines to be derided online for failing to satisfy the tamest of male gazes, Tank Girl had a noteworthy influence on the developing internet. especially in queer spaces (though the lesbian sub-plot from the comics is sadly reduced to a single reference in the film, which isn't quite as brave as it pretends to be). The film is very much a case of style over substance, but that style mattered. As a genre action flick it stands up fairly well alongside other popular hits of the period, easily outclassing Johnny Mnemonic and Waterworld if not quite up to the standard of The City Of Lost Children or Strange Days, and it punches well above its budget. What it lacks in class it makes up for in attitude, and cinema today would look very different without it.

Reviewed on: 07 Feb 2020
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A young woman with a fondness for tanks takes on a megacorporation which is trying to hoard all the water and power in a post-Apocalyptic wasteland.

Director: Rachel Talalay

Writer: Tedi Sarafian, based on the comic strip by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett

Starring: Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts, Malcolm McDowell

Year: 1995

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, UK

Festivals:

Glasgow 2020

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