Barb Wire

(David Hogan, USA, 1996)


The opening scene of Barb Wire raises high hopes in any fan nurtured on the intoxicating, pell-mell contradictions of B cinema.

Barb (Pamela Anderson) flounces around a stage in a kinky, Flashdance-style routine while men whistle and jeer. Finally, uttering her immortal catch-cry “don’t call me babe!”, Barb hurls the pointy end of her high-heel shoe into some poor boob’s head.

But even this stirring scene goes on a little too long, forecasting many worse problems of construction and execution. For this is a film where the plot floats obscurely, action sequences are often incomprehensible, dialogue is flat, and central characters pop in and out of view without leaving much impression.

Barb Wire belongs to a vast genre of B-grade sci-fi still flowing in the wake of the Mad Max series. Punk gangs and various cyber-dudes slug it out in desolate landscapes and abandoned warehouses; handsome resistance fighters, fascist troopers and weasly techno-nerds scamper about in hot-wired trucks.

There are marvellous films of this variety to be found in your video shop, gems such as Cherry 2000 (1987) and Highway to Hell (1992). But Barb Wire is more like the recent Screamers (1995), a murky, dysfunctional collocation of bits and pieces that looks especially impoverished when blown up onto a big screen.

Still, Anderson is an amazing, high-energy spectacle, heading a colourful, patchwork cast that includes cult superstar Udo Kier (The Kingdom [1994]) and Once Were Warriors (1994) wife-basher Temuera Morrison.

© Adrian Martin August 1996

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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