PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Barb Wire (Pamela Anderson Lee) owns the Hammerhead, a nightclub in Steel Harbor — “the last free city” in a United States ravaged by the civil war — and she brings in extra cash by hiring out as a mercenary and bounty hunter. Her club is raided by Chief of Police Willis (Xander Berkeley), who is looking for the fugitive Dr. Corrina “Cora” Devonshire (Victoria Rowell). Devonshire, a former government scientist, has information about a bioweapon being developed by her former superior, Colonel Pryzer (Steve Railsback) of the Congressional Directorate; she is trying to escape to Canada in order to make this information public.
Meanwhile, Devonshire has turned up at the Hammerhead. She is accompanied by Axel Hood (Temuera Morrison), a “freedom fighter” whom Barb had known (and, it is implied, loved) at the outbreak of the war, but the two were separated soon afterward. Axel is now married to Cora, and is trying to help her get to Canada. They are trying to find a contraband pair of contact lenses which will allow Cora to evade the retinal scan at the Steel Harbor airport. The lenses pass through the hands of several lowlifes before also ending up at Barb’s nightclub.
Rather than give the lenses to Cora and Axel, Barb makes a deal with “Big Fatso” (Andre Rosey Brown), the leader of a junkyard gang: Fatso wants the lenses, which are worth a fortune on the black market, and Barb wants a million dollars and an armed escort to the airport, where she plans to get on the plane to Canada. But Fatso double-crosses Barb; when Barb, Axel, and Cora show up at the junkyard to make the swap, Colonel Pryzer and his storm troopers are also there, along with Chief of Police Willis. Willis makes a show of arresting Barb and Cora, but instead of putting handcuffs on Barb, he slips her a hand grenade. Barb uses the grenade to kill Fatso and cause enough confusion to allow Barb, Axel, Cora, and Willis to pile into Barb’s armored van and lead the Congressionals on a car chase, culminating in a hand-to-hand fight between Barb and Colonel Pryzer atop a moving crane. Pryzer falls to his death while Barb escapes just before the crane explodes.
In the end, the party makes it to the airport, where Barb reveals that she still has the contact lenses. She gives them to Cora, and Cora and Axel get on the plane to Canada while Willis and Barb remain on the rainswept tarmac.
When this film came out, I had either just graduated high school or was in the final countdown headed toward it. At that time, Pamela Anderson Lee was the hottest thing on two legs (she’s still pretty damn hot, if you ask me). While this was meant to be a springboard for her acting career, I think it was more of a detriment to it and was the start of her becoming nothing more than a caricature of a real woman.
Barb Wire is one of these comic book films that few know is actually a comic, following in the steps of films like Men in Black and 300. If you’re going to bring a character like Barb Wire to the big screen, then you better have someone who fit the dimensions, and look good doing it. Casting Pam was genius in that department, but her acting skills leave something to be desired. Did the casting directors learn nothing from her short stints on Home Improvement and her years on Baywatch?
It really is a shame that, while she fits the look of this character, she can’t really bring any life to her. The film’s lead is the weakest link. Such a sad state of affairs, because the rest of the cast is pretty strong.
This isn’t exactly the best material, even for a comic book film of the mid-90s, but this cast seems to bring some life and believability to it which tends to allow the audience to watch this otherwise unwatchable schlock.
The action here is a real drawing point. The didn’t skimp on it, especially in the film’s climax. On top of that, the story isn’t half bad. I can see why they greenlit this, even if it is supposedly a futuristic version of Casablanca.
As I sad before, Pam Anderson is the worst thing about this film, but without her, no one would even bother watching. She seems to be going for this gravelly film noir detective sound with her voice, and it just doesn’t work. As a matter of fact, it comes off almost as annoying as Christian Bale’s Batman voice.
On the flipside, the opening scene with her being sprayed with water is many a male fantasy. When this was initially released on VHS, I’m sure there were machines and tapes ruined by all the rewinding and slow motion.
What is the final verdict on Barb Wire? Well, it has its moments, especially if you’re one of those excessively horny types. For the rest of us, though, it serves as a decent enough action flick. It has boobs, leather, and explosions, and a little substance, but not much else. So, should you see this? Well, if you’re a Pam fan, yes, but otherwise, I can’t recommend this. It just isn’t going to be worth your time.
3 out of 5 stars