The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tank Girl (1995)

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Way back when I did my look at comic book movies for my Wild Card posts, about two years ago, late in the game a few people came to me and suggested I do Tank Girl. It seemed like a no-brainer, except my line-up was already set. So I set it aside, kind of forgot about it, and then it sprang up as a part of the Stars Play 11, and I knew I couldn't let it disappear from Watch Instantly without seeing it and putting it up for review on here.

Tank Girl stars Lori Petty as our eponymous hero, a girl living in a future where a large comet has smashed into the Earth and for whatever reason affected the climate so much that it hasn't rained in 11 years. As you can imagine, that makes water a very valuable commodity, and Malcolm McDowell's evil corporation wants a monopoly over what's left. That puts Tank Girl in his cross hairs when her commune is discovered to be siphoning water from his plant. So he sends his troops in, they destroy it, capture her, then she escapes with one of their tanks. Now she has them in her cross hairs, and is ready to exact some revenge.

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I don't know how I didn't see this movie when it first came out, or how I went this long without seeing it, or that it took Netflix having to dump it for me to finally see it; but I guess it's important that I've seen it now, and it's fantastic. I feel like this is the movie that Sucker Punch was sold to me as, or it's the movie Catwoman wanted to be but wasn't. This isn't an action movie made for guys with women as eye candy in the leads; but it also doesn't lean on the novelty of being an action movie with a legitimate female protagonist. It has a lot of other elements I enjoyed, like this very authentic 90s music aesthetic, from the soundtrack, to the clothes, to the sets and cinematography. The cast was great too, with Petty as the perfect heroine and McDowell as the ultimate baddie, Naomi Watts, Ice-T, and Jeff Kober in supporting parts, and people like Iggy Pop and James Hong in cameos. This immediately jumps into my top five all-time favorite comic book/comic-strip movies.

Gotta start with Lori Petty, who I remember at the time seemed like the only person who could play this part, and as it turns out, that's pretty accurate. What I found different between her character here and the one she played in Point Break, is that in the latter, she's Kathryn Bigelow's metaphor for the woman who tries to play by the man's rules, but still ends up being relegated to damsel in distress status; while here she's not playing by the man's rules, she's tearing them down and recreating here own, and ultimately she prevails. I think both work because Petty makes them work, but here it's more on her to pull it all off, and she doesn't disappoint.

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Of all the supporting people in this, I had to make a special mention of DTVC favorite Jeff Kober. I can't believe it's been almost 3 years since his last film on here. When we started the DTVC, I figured Kober would be an integral part of what we had going on. Not a Hall of Famer, but at least a semi-regular. Funny how things work out like that. And when we finally do get back to him after three years, he's covered in kangaroo make-up. Well, at least he got the girl. Here's to you Jeff Kober, you're one of the good ones, and I'm sorry we haven't gotten you on here in so long. Also of note, another DTVC favorite, James Hong, has a small cameo as McDowell's doctor.

Two interesting roles here in Malcolm McDowell as the baddie and Naomi Watts as the sidekick. McDowell was as you'd expect him to be, sufficiently bad, but really having fun with it. I imagine, if this had been bad, he still would've been solid, the way Dennis Hopper was often solid in a lot of these kinds of movies that really were bad. Watts was different, because we're used to her as a sexy leading lady, where here she's more a meek wallflower type who discovers her agency as the film goes on. If you look at her imdb bio, she doesn't break out in Hollywood for another 6 or 7 years, when she did Mulholland Dr. and The Ring in quick succession.

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In addition to having a really sweet soundtrack-- including Devo doing a re-recording of their own song "Girl You Want" to make it sound like Soundgarden's cover of it--, we had some musicians acting in the film as well. Ice-T had the biggest part, as one of the kangaroo people. We're used to seeing him around here, though at the time he hadn't started his major DTV run of the late 90s/early 2000s that we're more familiar with him for. Then we had two cameos that stood out. Dawn Robinson of En Vogue played the image of a woman at the brothel telling women what to wear. The other was my man Iggy Pop. This is actually the first time we've seen him at the DTVC. Best concert I've ever been to was Iggy Pop at the Avalon in Boston in 2001. It was so good, I forgot the opening act-- which sucked-- even played, and even though I was dead tired from traveling 5 hours to get there from Bangor that day, I couldn't stop moving, the music was that good.

But this post isn't about how amazing Iggy Pop was in concert, it's about how amazing this movie is. It might not be for everyone, but it was definitely for me. You can get it on DVD or VHS, more likely used than new, but either way it's worth it. You can also rent it off of Netflix even if you can't get it on Watch Instantly.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114614/

12 comments:

  1. This is one of the good comic book movies..Ive only seen a few snapshots of the real deal, but Lory Petty is perfect for the part...its fun all the way..my brother actually is pushing me to watch it again with him....I resisted so far, but it sure is worth watching. Weird role for ICe -T. LOved Iggy Pop in Coffee& Cigarettes.

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  2. I love this movie for all it's randomness, with the art design being especially spot on, when it comes to things like "The Madame" and her Tank, which was as suitably bonkers as i'd expect it to be.

    The main problem here though, was that they were trying to adapt a comic which is essentially a series of one shot strips, rather than a continual storyline.

    Lori Petty is always good for quirky and I always try and watch anything she is in. It's doubtful that anyone else could have embodied the role aswell as she does here.

    Iggy Pop puts in one of his better performances, but then he is always best as a cameo than a main role, as shown both here and in "Hardware". You only need to look at "The Crow: City of Angels" to realize how limited his acting ability is.

    Nice to see some "Tank Girl" love!!

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  3. I hate to promote myself here but if all you fans of TG check out my blog http://www.mrgablesreality.blogspot.com she is part of the Bad Movie Battle Royale tournament coming in the next few weeks. Her profile is up and ready if you want to check it out.


    Great interview DTV, this movie is the greatest.

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  4. helford, coudn't agree more. And Iggy Pop in Coffee and Cigarettes was fantastic. Also loved him in Dead Man, another Jarmusch flick. I also agree with what you're saying Elwood about Tank Girl being a comic strip. It's almost as if we have to look at it as a separate entity.

    And Mr. Gable, don't hate to promote yourself on here, I'm all for it. Everyone needs to check out his Battle Royale, it was a great time last year, and I'm looking forward to this one!

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  5. I couldn't have put that better, great review.

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  6. This is definitely one of the most interesting films i've seen, it's a shame Rachel Talaylay hasn't directed another film since, I heard the studio execs cut alot of stuff out of this film(the opening narration was also forced in by the execs, which Lori Petty hated). I actually liked Iggy in City Of Angels, which had some executive meddling problems of it's own, 20 minutes worth of plot were hacked away.

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  7. If I didn't see this theatrically, I saw it soon after and I remember loathing it.

    Your review makes me think I might like TG if I revisit it. Hopefully, my tastes have matured, but I'm pretty sure I'm just an older, balder version of the kid that saw this one in the mid 90's.

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  8. i don't think i've ever seen this all the way through from beginning to end, though over the years i've seen bits and pieces of it numerous times.

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  9. awesome review. i love this flick. it's an underrated comic book movie. it's a watered down version of the comics (which i used to love)but still has the manic energy of them. fun flick...

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  10. After years of procrastinating I'm finally going to stump up a few quid and get a copy of this. Nice review Matt.

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  11. m.brown, this one isn't for everyone, so you may end up loathing it again, or you may love it. SNS and Jack Thursby, I'm with you, it took me forever to finally see it, but as you can see, I'm glad I did. And I agree drive2, the energy is what drives this thing.

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