You don’t know how good you have it. These days everyone has Iron Man, and Captain America, Oscar winning Spider-Man movies, and massive team movies from DC and Marvel. Aquaman is a friggin’ box office juggernaut. In 1996, though we had slim pickings, and, well the best we could get was a truly terrible, painfully dull cinematic adaptation of a pulpy Dark Horse comic that doubled as a remake for “Casablanca.” No seriously, this is as good as it got for us comic book fan boys.
Set in the futuristic world of 2017, after a second American Civil War, the country has been left in ruins, the population is based around the crime ridden city of Steel Harbor, a place with scum and villainy tantamount to the Mos Eisley Cantina. There we meet Barbara “Barb Wire” Kopetski, a gorgeous night club owner for the “Hammerhead Bar and Grille” who also moonlights as a dangerous bounty hunter and mercenary. This pits her against Steel Harbor’s worst of the worst. When her former flame and lover Axel Hood, who is now a freedom fighter comes back in to her life, he pleas with Barb to help his wife, a government scientist named Cora D who is on the run from her old boss, Congressional Directorate fascist Colonel Pryzer, as played by Steve Railsback.
Anxious to warn the world about the bio weapons being developed in Washington, Axel and Cora seek safe passage in to Canada, and of course, Barb is the only one that can help them. Filled with conflicting emotions for Axel, as well as morally torn between sides, she engages in a double cross, as she deals with various criminals and political thugs. Can Barb be trusted? Will Axel make it out of the country safely?
Back in 1996, Pamela Anderson was at the height of her popularity. She was a blonde bombshell that every man in America wanted to be with. I vividly recall printing pictures of her from the internet in the public library and even had a picture of her hanging in the closet of mine and my brother’s room. So it seemed only natural that Pamela Anderson would try to take the momentum from her worldwide fame and turn it in to a blockbuster movie career. I mean for all intents and purposes, Pamela Anderson is a knock out and she looks amazing in “Barb Wire.” Director David Hogan takes every chance to make her look great on screen, even at the expense of any substance that the movie accidentally stumbles in to.
And for a thirteen year old me in 1996, “Barb Wire” was wet dream fodder. As a vehicle for Anderson it had a small effect on her career, but as a movie it’s awful. It’s right there in the company of incredibly terrible super model vehicles like Anna Nicole Smith’s “Skyscraper” and Cindy Crawford’s “Fair Game.” Music video director David Hogan never quite knows how to grab even the slightest life out of Anderson’s performance, thus she spends most of her time on screen with little to no dialogue. She takes every advantage to strike a pose, though, with Hogan filming her in a bath in the dark, wielding guns in the dark, and riding her motorcycle at night. Because it’s a dystopia, you see and dystopias automatically have bad lighting.
What dialogue she does have is fairly stiff and her titular heroine Barb Wire doesn’t garner enough focus to make her interesting or worth rooting for. The whole ill fated love story between her and Temuera Morrison doesn’t exactly evoke shades of Bogart and Bergman, as the talented Morrison basically works hard to build sexual tension with Anderson. Truthfully he probably could have had more tension with a block of plywood. In any case, Hogan does fill the screen with a strong supporting cast like Xander Berkeley, Steve Railsback, Udo Kier, Clint Howard, Jack Noseworthy, and Temeura Morrison—co-star of the aforementioned “Aquaman.”
They don’t quite salvage “Barb Wire” despite their best efforts, as it still ends up being a terrible cinematic experience, but that is a hell of a cast any director would kill to have. David Hogan’s Pamela Anderson vehicle is a swing and a giant miss, suggested only for hardcore nineties kids. It’s a straight faced adaptation of a goofy comic which probably should have had a much better sense of humor, all things considered. At the very least it’s fun nineties fodder that you can look back on with a cringe or two, and some gaffs.