Hal Hinson - Style section,
Hal Hinson - Style section,
Set in 2017, Pamela Anderson Lee is Barb Wire, the kick-boxing owner of the Hammerhead Bar, located in the last free metropolis in the United States. A second American civil war has left the country under the regime of dour, jackbooted federalistas, but Barb Wire, who's officially apolitical, keeps contacts on government troops, local cops and the underground resistance.
When estranged lover and resistance
fighter Axel seeks Barb Wire's help with a political refugee,
the tough-talking heroine's well-ordered world starts to
disintegrate. -- Desson Howe
Poke No Barbs at 'Barb Wire'
By Desson Howe
Pamela Anderson Lee, ex-Playboy bunny and C.J. Parker in TV's "Baywatch," impressively pumps it up for this filmed version of the Dark Horse Comics series.
In the story, set in 2017, she's Barb Wire, the buxom, kick-boxing owner of the Hammerhead Bar, located in the last free metropolis in the United States. A second American civil war has left the country under the regime of dour, jackbooted federalistas, but Barb Wire, who's officially apolitical, keeps contacts on government troops, local cops and the underground resistance.
When estranged lover and resistance fighter Axel (Temuera Morrison -- the abusive husband in "Once Were Warriors") seeks Barb Wire's help with a political refugee, the tough-talking heroine's well-ordered world starts to disintegrate.
The movie isn't original, in fact, it's "Casablanca" in post-apocalyptic disguise, but director David Hogan keeps the action moving and loaded with fights, gun battles and other action-trashy thrills. As a combination of Bogey's Rick, La Femme Nikita and Jean-Claude Van Damme (and don't ever call her Babe), Lee is terrific.
(Contains violence, sexual situations and profanity.
Beach Babe Becomes Babe in Arms
By Hal Hinson
Though many are called to the throne of movie sex goddess, few are chosen. Actresses have played the vamp onscreen since the silent days of Theda Bara and the "It" girl, Clara Bow. Now, with her feature film debut as the star of "Barb Wire," "Baywatch" beach bunny Pamela Anderson Lee elevates herself from the lower echelon of mere international super-babedom to the loftier realm of pulp myth. She is "It" with an exclamation mark.
Jane Fonda in "Barbarella," Ursula Andress in "She," Raquel Welch in "One Million Years B.C.": this is the company she joins. Like "The Mask," "Barb Wire," the pile-driving, super-amped fusion of heavy metal, sci-fi and adolescent pinup fantasies from former video director David Hogan, is based on a character from Dark Horse Comics, and it remains true to its roots. But the script -- from Ilene Chaiken and Charles Pfarrer -- is sharper and smarter than you'd expect, especially in the way it crosses idioms and genres. Part high-tech, part grunge, the film mixes a potent cocktail of Russ Meyer biker movies, "The Terminator" and "Casablanca," from which "Barb Wire" takes its plot.
It's late in the 21th century and the world is engulfed in a civil war. But you'll have time to catch up on that later. From the very first frame, Lee is spilling out into our laps. Beginning with a trashy bump-and-grind number that leaves nothing to the imagination (and which instantly raises the ante on Demi Moore's upcoming performance in "Striptease"), Barb gyrates in a black wet suit, plunging, twisting, dramatically exposing parts of her anatomy while a fire hose pummels her with water.
As goddess material, Lee's Barb Wire couldn't be more perfect if Camille Paglia had dreamed her up. Barb is a warrior, a futuristic biker Diana who's traded in her bow for a grenade launcher. Everything about her is idealized, exaggerated. Perched on her Triumph, she's cinched up in uniforms that look like play clothes for a weekend with de Sade.
Barb Wire is a symbol of undiluted feminine power and abundance. And yet she's not about sex. Though she uses her body to bait and distract men, she never gives it up. As the proprietor of the Hammerhead Bar and Grill, the hard-core disco that serves as a headquarters for black market activity in the town of Steel Harbor, Barb isn't just another heavy-metal slut on a muscle bike. She's Rick in "Casablanca" and Marlene Dietrich in "Blue Angel" combined. She's her own comic book superhero, in control of her own body, her own heart, her own superhero destiny. Look, but don't touch. And, above all, don't call her BABE! "Barb Wire's" slam-bang cutting, slashing camera work and industrial-strength rock soundtrack hammer away at you throughout the movie. And after a while, you begin to think that assaulting and seducing your senses is all the filmmakers are interested in.
But then, improbable as it sounds, the "Casablanca" plot line actually starts to click. Passage in and out of Steel Harbor is controlled by the fascist Congressional Party troops, who check retinal prints at the border instead of letters of transit. For members of the resistance, the only way out is to obtain a pair of contact lenses designed specifically to fool the eye-coding at? Barb's got 'em.
Barb's conflict is between self-interest and love; like Bogart's Rick, she used to work with the underground, but withdrew into cynicism. The movie carries its cyberpunk variation right through to the end, and usually with enough wit and craziness to freshen the mix. Then, there is Pamela, whose tight, disciplined performance deserves more respect than it will almost certainly get.
Not that she cares. At the end, a new friend says to Barb as she walks off into the mist, "I think I'm falling in love." To which she responds, "Get in line."
And they will.