Barb Wire March 20, 2017
Why a Pamela Anderson vehicle sitting under the same female-driven action movie umbrella as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) or Resident Evil (2002) exists is beyond me. But I suppose if you have enough boobage to throw a male’s libido out of whack and enough Hannah Montana wig strands Elmer glued to your scalp, you can get anything. Her time to shine as a screen presence not tied to the finger of Gregory J. Bonann, Barb Wire (1996), is better than a cynic would expect an Anderson movie to be. Which ensures that it be only a couple notches above mediocrity, but that’s plenty fine when the stakes are this low.
Barb Wire is set in 2017 (“The worst year of my life,” the titular Wire says), a time when the world as we know it has become a wasteland dumped on by the Second American World War. All territories are weighted down by a totalitarian regime, only dirty coastal town Steel Harbor remaining free. In it, Barb Wire (Anderson), nightclub owner/stripper/mercenary/bounty hunter extraordinaire, conquers, prevailing as the top business owner cum big-name criminal in the area. She has her lawlessness down to a science – a raw deal’s no longer a raw deal but a mundane occurrence in her everyday life.
Her meticulously calculated persona is tested, though, by the arrival of Axel Hood (Temuera Morrison), a revolutionary with whom Wire had a passionate love affair before they were separated by the war. In the years since, Hood has found a new lady love in Dr. Corina Devonshire (Victoria Rowell), a scientist who has knowledge of an in-the-works bioweapon being developed by her former superior (Steve Railsback). As Canada’s the only region in the world free from the U.S.’s plight, she hopes to escape to the providence and make the information public.
Which, of course, makes her a target within the government’s long-in-the-making hit list. Part of Wire desires to get back with the guy who stole her heart and was never able to give it back. But another wants to make use of the Canada angle – it’d mean escaping the tiresome criminality of her current sitch and starting her life anew. So she’s contemplative, drifting back and forth between deciding to take a generous stance or a double-crossing one.
Roger Ebert has noted that Barb Wire is really just an updated version of Casablanca (1942) with gender roles reversed, and that’s not so much a sad reminder of limited originality in the cash hungry Hollywood machine as it is a strange yet welcome riot. That a Pam Anderson vehicle finds basis in a Bogie starrer is humorously bizarre, and we’re surprised by how successfully the film builds an atmosphere of action-packed vigor.
The feature is unsuccessful in concocting a followable story – too much is going on for a movie so concerned with T&A plasticized to near pornographic levels – and line delivery is too leaden to provide the movie with the camp value it otherwise could have. The middle act drags badly, and we tend to forget to comprehend what’s being said by the dialogue since no one involved brings it flavor.
But Anderson is just fine for a screen personality more brawn than brain, and the movie does have a nice look and feel: think a mixture of cobalt noir and dippy slapstick that makes it a little Tank Girl (1995) and a little The Crow (1996). The finale’s a nonsensical hoot. You could spend 98 minutes elsewhere, sure. But where else are you going to see a movie in which an actor refers to a woman as “Ms. Wire” and keeps a straight