Kinky and impervious, the heroes of modern action comics ease through space with nihilistic nonchalance-they seem to know their lives are an endless series of frames, each one as fleeting as the last-and Lori Petty, as the baby-doll tomboy punkette of TANK GIRL (United Artists, R), has this deadpan effrontery down pat. Visually, she’s all lithe, seductive angles: long limbs and stretchy torso, a platinum-blond fringed buzz cut that brings out the razory thrust of her lips and cheeks. Her little-girl voice, though, is halfway to a Shirley Temple impression, and Petty uses that mock-innocent squeak to toss out insults like so many spitballs. She’s the best reason to see Tank Girl. She’s also the only reason to see it. In the Tank Girl comic books, the heroine’s Zen brattiness is part of a larger, what-the-hell attitude, in which everything and nothing is at stake. But at the movies we need to feel some investment in the action before us, and the poky, amateurish Tank Girl doesn’t allow for that. Tank Girl, a.k.a. Rebecca Buck, is a renegade warrior scrambling to save her own hide in the postapocalyptic wasteland of 2033. Stuck in the desert, she is bounced around like a futuristic Candide, hopping from a slave labor camp run by the evil Malcolm McDowell (hissing on cue) to a commune of Rippers, rebel mutants who look like refugees from an intergalactic production of Cats. (They might have been fun if their dialogue weren’t so coy.) Wherever Tank Girl finds herself, though, the movie remains limp and blase, a trash bin of sci-fi detritus. Tank Girl does have a good, propulsive soundtrack (it was overseen by Courtney Love), sparked by Devo’s salacious ”Girl U Want” played over the opening credits. And I think that song points to how the picture itself might have been jazzier. The hook of today’s heavy-metal sci-fi comic books is that they’re sexy: irreverent dreamscapes that unfold with the hyperbole of soft- core porn. (What can you say about a character who is named for her giant phallic-symbol weapon?) The filmmakers, though, never allow their superwoman to become a truly saucy vamp. Tank Girl is cautiously feminist rather than sex-positive feminist-an aspiring cult film that would rather be cute than dangerous. C-

Tank Girl
  • Movie
  • 104 minutes