1996, R, 90 min. Directed by David Hogan. Starring Pamela Anderson Lee, Clint Howard, Temuera Morrison, Victoria Rowell, Steve Railsback, Udo Kier.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 3, 1996
It's 2017, and the United States is deep into its second civil war. The treacherous, fascistic Congressional Directorate (the militias were right!) is winning its war of attrition against the rebel underground, and rumors of a new and deadly bio-weapon that could deep-six freedom forever are making the rounds. The resistance's only hope for victory lies with renegade biologist Cori D (Rowell) and the pair of bootlegged German retinal contact lenses that can help her over the Canadian border to freedom. Like Rick's passport out of Casablanca, however, the precious lenses are making the rounds in Steel Harbor, the anarchic free city on the edge of chaos that serves as the home port for gorgeous mercenary Barb Wire (Anderson Lee), a curvaceous blonde bombshell with a heart of gold and a tragic past. Based on the Dark Horse comic series of the same name, Barb Wire marks the much-heralded big-screen debut of Baywatch's Anderson Lee, and -- surprise! -- she's not so bad. She may never make Kenneth Branagh's short list, but Anderson Lee is fine in this over-the-top comic book shoot-'em-up (although the film's recurrent tag line, “Don't call me babe…,” leaves a lot to be desired). Also along for the ride are Barb's estranged lover Axel, now a resistance fighter (Morrison, of Once Were Warriors) and the head waiter at Barb's Hammerhead Bar, Curly (the ever-wonderful Kier, late of Andy Warhol'sDracula, among others). Together, it's up to them to, well, save the world, more or less. Director Hogan, who makes his directorial debut here, freely uses much of what he learned on music videos for the like of The Sisters of Mercy. The film positively radiates pop-culture sheen, with staccato machine gun bursts every two or three minutes and plenty of scantily-clad Anderson Lee. It's a comic book movie in the broadest sense of the term, and although it's neither as emotionally resonant as The Crow nor as surreally goofy as Tank Girl, Barb Wire still manages to get you going, Anderson Lee fan or not. Buxom babes, big explosions, and black leather. Hey, pal, what more do you want?