By Doug Cummings
Arizona Daily Wildcat
"Tank Girl" is a film based on the best-selling comic sensation from British authors Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin. The series depicts a post-apocalyptic future where water is scarce and controlled by the insidious Water and Power Company. Fighting the company is a group of half-man/half-kangaroo mutants, the Rippers, who attempt to usurp its power.
Entering the conflict, in the movie version, is Rebecca Buck (Lori Petty), a pert 19-year-old woman who dresses like a rock star, squeaks out one-liners, and wields automatic weapons with sassy playfulness. When a child is abducted, Rebecca decides to rescue her and becomes Tank Girl, the futuristic banshee. The movie is like "Mad Max" with Cindy Lauper in Mel Gibson's role.
Unfortunately, the film is a random collection of silliness that exhibits no regard for narrative continuity. In a rescue scene that takes place in a futuristic nightclub, Tank Girl takes the club's owner hostage and threatens to cut her hair unless she sings Cole Porter's "Let's Do It" in front of the club's patrons. The owner begins crooning away and soon the entire club joins in and the scene turns into an elaborate musical number complete with dancing girls. Meanwhile, the intended rescue is thwarted as the enemy whisks the prisoner away to another location. Because it affects the plot, the audience is supposed to take the dancing scene seriously, but it's only ridiculous.
The movie is directed by Rachel Talalay ("Nightmare on Elm Street 6: Freddy's Dead") with MTV-like flash editing and saturated colors. The visual approach is predictable and familiar, but Talalay injects a few creative ideas. Foremost of these is her insertion of stills from the Tank Girl comic that comment on the action. In addition, the film sometimes uses elaborate animation sequences. While the incorporation of illustration is creative, Talalay overuses the device repeatedly, turning the idea into a tiresome gimmick.
Lori Petty ("A League of Their Own") is initially sexy and full of irreverent verve, but her sassiness is two-dimensional and quickly gets tedious. Tank Girl seems so flippant about everything, from being taken prisoner, to being tortured that she never acquires any sense of relevance. The audience never develops an emotional tie to her, or any other character in the movie, because the film's plotting is so unrealistic and there is no sense of danger. While the movie isn't a comedy, it nevertheless turns every scene into a joke and delights in being nonsensical.
"Tank Girl" has the look and feel of a comic, but lacks the emotional connection of an entertaining movie. The film exemplifies the fact that quirky one-liners and outrageous action may make a comic diverting, but movies require an emotional core.
"Tank Girl" is showing at Century Gateway, 792-9000.
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