Barb Wire

Self-exploit your way to liberation!
★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1996
Director: 
David Hogan
Starring: 
Pamela Anderson, Udo Keir, Steve Railsback, Victoria Rowell
The Setup: 
Pamela Anderson wears SM gear while kicking ass.
Discussion: 

From the yawning cultural abyss that is the 90s comes this, conceived as a way to wring money from guys who think Pamela Anderson is hot. We begin with one of those onscreen texts that is simultaneously read aloud [“you are too dumb to read,” is the message to the audience] informing us that it is now 2017 and this group the “Congressionals” control everything except this one free town called Steel Harbor. There are also freedom fighters, called the United Front. We basically find out nothing more—what caused things to get to this point, etc. For example, while all this is happening, we are seeing this vast desert landscape, implying that there has been some kind of ecological catastrophe, although this is never explained. All you need to know is: things suck.

Anyway, we immediately transition into Pamela Anderson giving a strip show. She is clad in this skin-tight black leather bustier thing unzipped to showcase her breasts, which are jammed together in order to make them look like grapefruits. You’ll notice that the pointy ends of the zipper, which are RIGHT there, effectively give the appearance of rigidly erect nipples. But don’t worry, we get numerous full-breast shots later in the sequence, and numerous [NUMEROUS] shots just OF her breasts, i.e. not of her torso INCLUDING her breasts, no, but OF HER BREASTS. While this is happening, four men are shooting water all over her, as she writhes there, preening as the fluid is continuously shot all over her. Need I explicate further? It’s all so blatant it begins to be a little embarrassing. And this level of fascination with boobies—isn’t it a bit pre-adolescent? Like, oral stage?

So let’s look at history—from my point of view. From a capitalist viewpoint, what’s the problem with feminism? Why, if women all become liberated in a 70s and early 80s sense, and begin to see themselves as more than sex objects for men, who is going to buy all the cosmetics? The magazines? Who’s going to shop at Victoria’s Secret? So toward the end of the 80s and in high swing by the time of this movie was the concept that women can mold themselves after the most crude male sexual fantasies and STILL be right-on feminists, because they are exploiting THEMSELVES! [And DO NOT START with me about how they just want to be “attractive” if you’re not ready to discuss where this PARTICULAR idea of “attractiveness” comes from]. Such it is in this film, when Barb wears her black leather SM attire [exposed boobs up front, thong in back] in ALL situations, but also manages her own nightclub, doesn’t take any shit, and kicks multiple asses. As she’s stripping at the beginning, there’s a guy calling for her to take it ALL off, and finally Barb whips off her high-heeled shoe and kills they guy with it. Which kind of blew my mind—here the movie has been inviting us the audience to LEER at her tits as she gets spurted with water, yet we’re supposed to understand that wanting her to take it all off is crossing the line? Is somehow DISrespectful? When it’s okay to reduce her to a set of jugs? Such is the murky moral morass of this film.

So then Barb, hair plumped up with product that makes it look both dry and moist at the same time, like exposed seaweed, goes down to this freezer, where she finds a kidnapped schoolgirl. There’s a whole shootout an daring escape, and ultimately it all comes down to that Barb is a bounty hunter in her spare time, when not operating her nightclub, which is one of the few places neutral to whatever ill-defined political conflict is consuming the place. Got all that? It’s just the most perfectly plausible thing.

Meanwhile, the Congressionals are torturing some woman for information leading to this escaped resistance fighter. You will notice, however, that this torture involves nasty electrode-looking things on her face, yes, but also on her breasts and over her crotch. She is naked otherwise, it’s like a bikini of electro-torture, covering only her sexual organs. Furthermore, the Congressionals are specifically styled as Nazis, making this whole scene hearken back to pulp magazines filled with stories and illustrations of Nazis performing sick sexual tortures on women. The torture instrument supposedly stimulates her brainwaves, but this causes her entire body to writhe and shake, leaving the image that the Nazis are stimulating her sexually to the point that it’s torture. Yeah. Great!

So now we are introduced to the Hammerhead, the big bar that Barb runs. Get ready for lots more boobs, folks. In here we have poor Udo Keir as Curly, Barb’s bald, sorta-gayish assistant. Barb decides to go out bounty hunting for the night, for which she MUST pose as a prostitute. I’d love to see some hot babe have to pose as a bakery worker at some point. Or a slaughterhouse worker, who sweeps up stray organs. Barb picks up this guy, and the movie flirts with the idea that she’s going to act as a hot dominatrix, when actually she somehow knows that this guy she’s after is next door, and somehow knew that this schlub on the street lives right in that building. This all leads to a big fight and shootout, although by now we’re not even 30 minutes in and I am TOTALLY bored. Soon after this someone refers to Barb’s former identity and she says “Miss Kapitsky’s dead. I’m Barb Wire now.” Oooh. Then a Rottweiler grabs a guy by the dick, leading to at least a full minute of dog-mouth-on-guy’s-crotch footage before the dog drags him out BY his dick. This movie is like a compendium of the best in cinema.

So it goes on. And on. And at around an hour, I realized that I REALLY didn’t want to watch any of this movie anymore. So I weighed the consequences of letting you down by not reporting knowledgably on every moment of this cinematic gem, and the fact that there were forty minutes left, and those are forty of MY LIFE. Plus the reality that we all know EXACTLY what’s going to happen in every one of those forty minutes. So I decided to fast-forward at 16X though to the end, when to my surprise we discover that the whole thing was the dream of a 10-year-old girl in New Jersey as she processes the social mores that will result in her having to accept participation in a society that will deny her personhood and see her only as a set of genitals. No—SILLY! It all goes off precisely as you expect, with more chases and fights and shootouts until finally it ends.

However, I will tell you one thing in all seriousness: This is a self-conscious update of Casablanca. This is not even subtle. You have Barb running the bar, a person she has to protect and get out of the country, Nazis encroaching, and an ending on an airfield as the person she loves goes away. Yep, so if you ever wanted to see a really shitty, idiotic, caveman-level version of Casablanca with a lot of fake boobs, your lucky day is here.

It’s not that the film isn’t good-natured and doesn’t have a sense of humor about itself, which contributes greatly to its being as watchable as it is. In retrospect, I’m kind of surprised I made a whole hour. But a sense of humor doesn’t necessarily mean it has a GOOD sense of humor, and while one can look at this and note that it’s trying to be funny, it really ISN’T that funny. So really the only reason to watch this is if you really think Pamela Anderson is hot and you want to see hers and others’ fake boobs. Although I suspect that if you did, you wouldn’t be on this site.

Should you watch it: 

If you want to see fake boobs but are too young to just go ahead and buy porn like an adult.