Barb Wire (1996)
Barb Wire (1996)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.

Release Date: May 3rd, 1996 MPAA Rating: R

Director: David Hogan Actors: Pamela Anderson, Temuera Morrison, Jack Noseworthy, Steve Railsback, Xander Berkeley, Udo Kier, Victoria Rowell, Andre Rosey Brown

 


 

D

uring the second American Civil War, a tyrannical group called the Congressional Directorate has taken control, placing every city under martial law. The last free town, Steel Harbor, may not be scrutinized by the corrupt forces in power, but it’s marked by its own brand of chaos and crime, making way for a new breed of mercenaries. In the year 2017, Barbara “Barb Wire” Kopetski (Pamela Anderson Lee) acquires a job as a dancer for a seedy club, run by Sharif (Shelly Desai), in which prostitution for the wealthy Mr. Santo (Michael Russo) runs rampant. But Barb Wire isn’t there to entertain sweaty patrons; she’s there to rescue a kidnapped young woman for a price. “Where’s my money?”

Meanwhile, the head citizens of the Directorate are tracking the escaped Dr. Corina Devonshire, who plans to join freedom fighters from the Resistance (the United Front) in Steel Harbor. Her contacts are William Krebs (Loren Rubin) and Axel (Temuera Morrison), though merely locating them won’t be sufficient; Devonshire (Victoria Rowell) has had her face surgically altered so that she can travel without being noticed. Fortunately for the Resistance, the typically indifferent Barb Wire is a bounty hunter and gun for hire – managed by Hammerhead bar maitre d’ Curly (Udo Kier) – and she just might be sympathetic to their cause.

“Don’t call me babe.” The opening credits sequence features Anderson stripteasing, dancing on stage and undulating on a swing, all while water splashes about … and her enormous breasts flop out of her black leather dress. Based on this introduction, it’s clear that this film isn’t terribly interested in storytelling; the primary motive for its existence is to transition its star from one skimpy outfit or mode of undress to the next (at one point, she even takes a bubble bath in a clear tub, just so viewers can see below the water line). There are also moments of action and slow-motion gunfights, but they don’t exactly stand out.

The premise is an obvious rip-off of “Casablanca,” even with the minimally futuristic designs and manners of modernization (sex, nudity, torture, and bloodshed), which give “Barb Wire” a harder edge but far less of the heroic, romantic appeal. Wire’s noirish voiceover narration (which reiterates all of the same information seen in the opening text crawl); the villains (led by Colonel Pryzer [Steve Railsback]), all fashioned to look like Nazis; Alexander Willis (Xander Berkeley), the local law enforcer whose allegiance lies with whichever side is currently in the lead; flashbacks to wartime romantic entanglements; and the neutral bar, where everyone is welcome, are all nods to the 1942 classic. But the visual similarities are negligible, especially when Anderson’s bosoms are the most prominent things on display.

Adapted from Chris Warner’s Dark Horse comics series, “Barb Wire” has a mostly serious tone, which doesn’t serve it well. In order to pull off this kind of schlocky, exploitive B-movie, a self-aware humor needed to be evident. Every time it tries to approach the subject matter with sincerity, it just grows more unintentionally goofy (save for the ending, in which the generally stone-faced antagonist turns into a cackling fool). In many ways, “Barb Wire” resembles “Tank Girl,” but without the colorfulness and quirkiness, which helped that picture not only look like a comic book entity, but also gain an identity beyond a famous face (and body). At least the climax is full of explosions, car and motorcycle chases, shootouts, and crane stunts (and the briefly comedic death of minor baddie Big Fatso [Andre Rosey Brown]), though even in this hubbub, it’s obvious that Anderson is no great actress. But choice parts of her anatomy tend to take center stage.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10