Before I get into this installment’s movie, let’s all think about the heady days of 1996. Maybe you’re a hotshot movie exec that still does cocaine and the comic book industry is still booming with holographic covers and profitable movie tie-ins. You decide that you’ll pick up a lesser-known indie book with an approachable post-apocalyptic hook, like Tank Girl but more grounded in reality. You’ll throw some money out to a 2-dimensional but serviceable pair of boobs as the lead actress, like Bo Derek. You’ll surround her with a bunch of journeymen actors as bad guys; hire a writer that’s pumped out a few Jean Claude Van Damme action movies, and a newbie director. The plot will be second to the action and boobs, so no one will notice that’s lifted blow-for-blow from a better movie. Speaking of blow…
All of those decisions should lead to a decent, generic, maybe profitable movie but instead each one just missed the mark. What you’re left with is Barb Wire, a movie that should have gone straight to Cinemax but instead was released in actual theaters in 1996. It stars Pamela Anderson (then going by Pamela Anderson Lee) as a badass bounty hunter in the far-flung future of 2017, trying to toe the line between right and wrong. This is the only movie that I’ll watch for this series that I had seen a part of before, pay attention and see if you can figure out which part 11 year old me had seen. To accompany this movie I’m drinking something called a “blonde-headed slut”, a suggestion from my friend and professional bartender Kevin. It’s supposed to be a shot comprised of equal parts Grand Mariner, peach schnapps, and pineapple juice. I threw everything together and added a bit of club soda to make it a makeshift cocktail. It’s not as terrible as it sounds.
The movie starts with a text crawl explaining that it’s 2017, and America is going through a new civil war. There’s a voice-over narration that reads all of this to you, explaining some despotic politicians have overthrown our democracy except on one island: Steel Harbor. That sounds less like the civil war is going on and more like it’s already done. After that primer, we see Pamela Anderson dancing in a black PVC dress alongside the opening credits. Eventually, as she’s wont to do, she shows off her boobs and water starts spraying her down. At the end of the opening credits, she throws her shoe at some guy that was yelling at her and presumably kills him. Don’t objectify women that dance and strip in black PVC while dudes hose her down, kids; just tip them.
After she gets off stage, she kills her creepy strip club manager for reasons unknown to the audience. Then she opens a meat locker and rescues a school girl. This movie is doing a really great job of making sense and drawing me in already. After she returns the girl to her parents and takes their car as payment (leaving them in a dark alley a block away from the strip club), she gives a voice-over narration of the exact same story we heard 10 minutes ago. I’ve already finished my first too-sweet drink and want something completely different, much like this movie makes me want to watch something completely different. But I will persevere.
We then get a scene of bad guys torturing some girl on a table wearing a metal bikini with wires coming out of it. They’re mentioning names and motivations that mean nothing at this point. The phrase “the free city of Steel Harbor” has been uttered 4 times in 15 minutes, so you think it means something. It doesn’t, but we find out that some woman with magical DNA has escaped there, and the bad guys want her.
There’s a drawn-out scene in an industrial bar set up in a warehouse that makes the movie one pair of JNCO jeans away from being the most 90’s thing ever. Pamela Anderson owns this place, and to make ends meet decides she’ll go out and collect a bounty on some schmuck. There’s another drawn-out scene but this one involves guns and over-the-top fighting. She straight-up kills a guy after the fight because he calls her babe, and then frets over a broken nail. She’s hardcore, guys. Honestly, the only thing I’ve realized as far as character development is that she’s pissed off all the time and does not wear much clothing.
The bad government guys show up at Pam’s bar and she’s pissed at that. Of course, Magic DNA Lady and the guy she’s with decide to show up on the exact same night and Pam’s pissed about that too. Turns out, Magic DNA’s man was Pam’s man back in “The War” and we’re treated to a flashback of Pam wearing combat fatigues, dirt, and too much lipstick for a battlefield. That’s why she’s so pissed; she lost the war for her country and her man! She tells him she won’t help them, and she won’t help the bad guys either- she’s in this for herself and she’s got a good thing going on right now. All I know is that in the future everything is dark and wet and no one is happy. Clint Howard is in this movie for some reason, and he shows up the next day to sell some contact lenses (read: mcguffin) that both sides want but Pam wants none of it. He hides it in her bar with her somehow not noticing it and then runs away. He’s going to die later, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.
The bad guys know Clint had the lenses and dealt with Pam because they have special eye-reading technology that they can use for identification or reading your memories in a painful way because the future is bullshit. They trash her bar looking for the mcguffin, but she’s still not goaded into anything. Her brother took the lenses because even though he’s blind he knew Clint hid them in the bar. I try to stay just drunk enough to follow the plots of these movies, and thankfully this one met me halfway. If I was any less drunk I’d have an aneurism, any more drunk and I would actually like this movie.
To sum up act three: bad guys kill Pam’s brother, Pam decides to sell the lenses to get her and Magic DNA to a plane to Canada even though Magic DNA needs the lenses to board the plane. She’s double-crossed, but double-crosses them back and a painfully long car chase, shootout, and fight scene follow. They all get to the airport, and she lets Magic DNA and her ex get on a plane while she stays back with a sort of dirty police captain that’s been floating around. It’s not until that final scene that I realize this movie is Casablanca, but with more tits and explosions. Someone actually did a grim reboot of fucking Casablanca. I’m not proud to have finished the Grand Marnier on that realization.
- Magic DNA was going to stop a global epidemic of super AIDS, but Pam didn’t care about all that. I think in real life, she’s more cognizant of incurable STDs.
- This is as close as I would get to Pamela Anderson’s sex tape until I got broadband internet. I’d like to thank her for that.
- Is this what Twitter arguments will do to our country in the next two years? It seems wholly possible.
- The comic book “Barb Wire” actually had a mini-series after this train wreck of a movie, although the character hasn’t been seen since 1998.
Bottom line: Somehow the attempt at a plot made this worse than Steel. At least I could see that Steel was silly, family-friendly fun. This seemed more like it was created by throwing darts at a wall made up of b-movie clichés.
Hopefully I’ll be back sooner than a month from now. As always, you can help start the civil war of 2017 by reaching me on Twitter @captjohnstarr or dropping a line in the comments.