Under the Radar

'Tank Girl' More Girls Than Tanks


Nineties artifact Tank Girl has been given the full remaster reissue treatment in a new Blu-ray and DVD combo pack. The movie features Army veteran Ice-T in one of his first high-profile acting gigs back when he was trying to make the transition out of his hip hop recording career. There's also a highly modified tank, girls with guns and a mainstream movie studio's take on the punk rock underground.


Tank Girl tanked back in 1995 but it's gained a cult reputation over the last few years as youngsters have discovered it in VHS and DVD bargain bins. Now Shout! Factory has put together a series of new bonus featurettes and a new commentary from director Rachel Talalay and star Lori Petty.


Ice-T proves he can hit his marks and show up for work, answering the biggest questions studios ask about musicians who want to be actors.

Tank Girl was based on a popular underground comic book created by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin. Hewlett survived this experience and went on to collaborate with Blur's Damon Albarn on Gorillaz, a music group fronted by Hewlett-drawn comic characters.  If you're wondering why you've never seen a Gorillaz movie or animated TV series, Hewlett has long said that his experiences working with MGM on this movie were a nightmare and made him want to keep control of work going forward.



On one level, Tank Girl is a standard post-apocalypse dystopian sci-fi movie. There's a bombed-out world full of mutant kangaroo super soldiers and a powerful cabal who control the world's limited power supply. A guerrilla faction takes down the bad guys but not without paying a price. The hook is that the wisecracking Arnold Schwarzenegger role is played by a tiny blonde girl with dreadlocks. You also get an incredibly young Naomi Watts playing the sidekick.


The movie didn't have the budget to build one of the fantasy tanks from the comic books, so they settled for having Hewlett customize what looks like an M5A1 Stewart. For a movie with "tank" in the title, there don't seem to be many shots featuring the vehicle.


Tank Girl the movie is desperate to proved its underground bona fides. Lori Petty's Tank Girl wears a Clockwork Orange-style bowler hat  early in the film and Malcolm McDowell later shows up as the bad guy. He's obviously intended to bolster the dystopian cred, but his performance seems more like a continuation of his career-long tradition for showing up to star in anything attached to a paycheck. Malcolm is never bad in anything but he does give the impression that he makes no distinction between a role in modern noir classic Gangster No. 1 and voiceover work for Phineas and Ferb.


The new Blu-ray transfer looks great: just compare it to the DVD, which looks to be the same muddy transfer that's been out there before. That clarity highlights the fact that the filmmakers were trying to make a movie that looks far more expensive than their budget would allow. It's never been clear if the animated sequences in the movie were a creative choice at the beginning or an afterthought to paper over scenes they found out they couldn't afford to film.

So, Tank Girl: recommended for anyone wondering how the dream of the 90s ran aground, Gorillaz fans, Ice-T completists and anyone who gets excited by girls with machine guns.

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