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MGM Studios DVD presents
Tank Girl (1995)

"Oh, I was just thinkin' about leavin' this place. It's been swell, but the swelling's gone down."
- Tank Girl (Lori Petty)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: April 12, 2001

Stars: Lori Petty, Malcolm McDowell
Other Stars: Ice-T, Naomi Watts
Director: Rachel Talalay

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and sexuality
Run Time: 01h:43m:38s
Release Date: April 10, 2001
UPC: 027616860354
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A B-A-A- D

DVD Review

Based on the British comic strip created by Alan Martin and Jaime Hewlett, Tank Girl reached the silver screen in 1995 under the direction of Rachel Talalay. In a post-meteor-apocalypse world circa 2033, corporate megalith Water & Power controls nearly everything under the iron guidance of CEO Kesslee (Malcolm McDowell). A few rebellious souls continue to inhabit independent settlements, while a renegade band of violent creatures known only as The Rippers carry out guerilla strikes against W&P. When the corporate thugs descend upon and destroy her home settlement, Rebecca (Lori Petty) becomes Tank Girl, teaming up with Jet Girl (Naomi Watts) and some unlikely allies to fight for freedom.

What makes Tank Girl work so wonderfully well is its complete commitment to its own weird aesthetic, combining punk music, comic book visuals and a foul-mouthed, oddly charming attitude to produce something that's very nearly original. Petty has great fun as a smart-ass grrrl rebelling against the powers that be, and the rest of the film plays along with her, never taking its plot so seriously as to get in the way of its joyful, freewheeling style. Production designer Catherine Hardwicke and creaturemaster Stan Winston contribute some great designs, and the movie has a consistent sense of its own style—everything fits, no matter how outlandish the gewgaws, costumes and gadgetry become.

Director Talalay came from a production background, having worked on 1980s New Line releases including John Waters' Hairspray and at least one of the Nightmare on Elm Street films, and her producer's instincts remain solid. Because the film is set in a future version of our own society, a lot of the fun comes from pop-culture references to Doris Day, Isaac Hayes' Theme from Shaft, and Cole Porter, including a big Let's Do It musical number. The acting isn't given short shrift either—Malcolm McDowell does his standard villain routine with verve, Naomi Watts is credible as the shy, technically-oriented Jet Girl, and Ice-T and others turn in solid performances as a band of genetically-engineered human/kangaroo mutants. Even the visibly low-budget special effects seem right—the obvious models, matte paintings, and man-in-a-suit creatures actually enhance Tank Girl's offhanded ambience.

Lest I wax too euphoric here, I should make it clear that this is just an entertaining little off-the-wall movie, akin to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Tron or even Howard the Duck. It's more style than substance, to be sure, but fresh, funny and well worth experiencing.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: MGM presents Tank Girl in its original 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio with a fine anamorphic transfer. The source print is very clean with just a few minor flecks, and the video image is clean and stable, with solid color, good shadow detail and no distracting compression artifacts. The single-layer transfer does have a slightly soft look throughout, but the film generally looks fine on DVD.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: Tank Girl features English Dolby Digital 5.1, French DD 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 stereo soundtracks. The 5.1 mixes are very active, though imaging is a little gimmicky and bass is sometimes thin in the scenes where it's needed most. Graeme Revell's energetic score is supplemented by alternative music tracks selected by Courtney Love, including work by Bjork, Bush, Devo, Hole, Ice-T, Veruca Salt, Rachel Sweet, Joan Jett, and others, and the music-driven film benefits from digital clarity and competent frequency range. Dialogue is slightly obscured in a few spots, but this 1995 film sounds the way it should on DVD.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Unfortunately, the Tank Girl DVD features minimal extras, supported only by 16 picture-menu chapter stops, subtitles in two languages and the original theatrical trailer, in 1.85:1 letterboxed 4:3 format with Dolby 2.0 audio. The player-generated French and Spanish subtitles are placed largely outside the 2.35:1 frame, making mattes effectively useless with the subtitles turned on. Not much to see here.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Tank Girl roars out of left field with style, attitude and a kickin' soundtrack; it's a refreshing little comic book movie that doesn't try to be anything it's not. MGM's DVD features a solid transfer, though supplements are sorely lacking for this budding cult classic. Definitely worth checking out.


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