Based on Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett's comics, Tank Girl is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film from 1995 starring Lori Petty as the devil-may-care weirdo who is kidnapped and forced to work for a sadistic megalomaniac. Despite clever marketing, the film was a significant flop and it lost money at the box-office.
Adapting the Tank Girl comics was always going to be a challenge seeing as they were particularly anarchic. Every panel was like a colorful Pop Art piece with mindless violence and eclectic details splashed all over it, even reading the original black and white comics you could feel color pop out of them. This was a sexy, brutal and cool pop culture Pollock of a comic and any good movie adaptation would have to capture both its punky spirit and visual flair. The short animated sequences in Tank Girl do this perfectly and one can't help but feel that a fully, or partially at least (á la Scott Pilgrim vs The World), animated feature would have been the perfect approach here.
Things get a little dicier when it comes to the live-action parts, unfortunately. Director Rachel Talalay had experience with horror and sci-fi and clearly had a fondness for the comic-books, which is reflected by the film's willingness to go about as all out as the studio would let it. Lori Petty also proves to be perfect casting for Tank Girl as she brings a tough, funny yet unhinged quality to the character and nails the tomboy punk attitude. The supporting cast, which includes Naomi Watts and Malcolm McDowell, is a little patchier but everyone seems to be having a good time, embracing the madness of it all.
The film itself is a mixed bag with a paper-thin plot that fails to grab your attention for its duration. By the time Ice-T and his kangaroo buddies turn up, there's a good chance you'll be looking at your watch wondering how this isn't the third act yet. Malcolm McDowell's villain, who drains his enemies of all the water in their body and then drinks it, had potential but is inexplicably mostly absent from the film after an early defeat. The action sequences are also much too few and far between in what should have been a relentless, no holds barred experience. Instead, Tank Girl is often sluggish and clumsy, not particularly bold in terms of visuals or direction even and the writing lacks bite.
Despite the many criticisms you can throw at this movie, it has quite a bit going for it: a solid cast, some cool imagery, the title character's f*** you attitude and some excellent, if all too short, animated segments. It's easy to imagine a Tank Girl movie that works and feels iconic, this just wasn't it, but it's still worth seeing as a curiosity at least.
Flawed but the spirit is there.