Barb Wire (1996) / Action
MPAA Rated: R for violence, language, sexuality and nudity
Running Time: 98 min. (109 min. on home video)
Cast: Pamela Anderson Lee, Temuera Morrison, Victoria Rowell, Jack Noseworthy, Steve Railsback
Director: David Hogan
Screenplay: Chuck Pfarrer, Ilene Chaiken
Review published January 5, 2005
Barb Wire starts off with an inspired but bewildering inclusion of Gun's cover of Cameo's funk classic "Word Up!" while Pamela Anderson Lee ("Baywatch") dances around, displaying her well-crafted assets, and you'd begin to suspect that you're in for a 90 minute stylish music video. While there's nothing that occurs later to dissuade from that initial astute assumption, it's a shame that all of the glitz and chutzpah couldn't have been included in a better film.
Barb Wire is based on the long-cancelled Dark Horse comic book of the same name, but while they maintain the title character and setting of her origins, the writers decided to rip off Casablanca (of all things!) rather than remain faithful to the comic.
In this film, the United States has been put under martial law by a Nazi-ish regime, save for Steel Harbor, the only bastion of freedom left in the country. This town is where Barb Wire runs a popular bar, while making extra money as a bounty hunter in her spare time. Her credo is to never take sides, but she may be forced to do so when an old boyfriend brings a female leader of the resistance through town, trying to get her on board an airplane headed to France. Unfortunately, the government performs retinal scans to determine people's identities, in an era where physical alterations has run rampant. They seek some contact lenses meant to mask one's identity and allow them to travel unhindered anywhere in the world.
Outside of a paltry couple of nude scenes where Pam titillates with flashes of skin, the only thing that might maintain your interest is to correlate characters and scenes with those of Casablanca. In any other film, this might have proven a distraction, but since Barb Wire is bereft of entertaining ideas anyway, the allusions are all one can cling to to keep from falling asleep.
It seems there is an axiom in Hollywood that states "If you can't act, whisper." This idea has been taken up by Steven Seagal and Jennifer Tilly, most notably, and Pam is cut from the same cloth.
Giving the film a little credit, it could have worked had there was at least a hint of character development to make viewers care about the characters and also the resistance movement they are part of. It's a shame that former rock video director David Hogan (Most Wanted) is more concerned with short-attention span editing, blaring rock tunes, and platinum blondes in tight leather outfits than in entertaining anyone who isn't a male between 13 and 15. Traversing a barbed wire fence naked would not only be more entertaining, but a lot less painful than sitting through this monotonous noise pollution.
©2005 Vince Leo