Barb Wire (1996)R

Half a capeTent

The one and only Pamela Anderson makes her feature film debut in a sci-fi ripoff of Casablanca. You can’t go wrong with a sure thing like that.

Anderson won a Razzie award in the category of “Worst New Star” — and she is, in fact, absolutely terrible — and the film was nominated in five other categories, including “Worst Picture” and “Worst Screenplay”. Anderson’s fake breasts were nominated for “Worst Screen Couple”. Those hoping for breasts in general will be disappointed to hear that there are no real ones. Only Pam’s, and a few other equally fake ones with pasties on. If that’s good enough for you, take heart — this is the sort of picture where the protagonist’s nipples are onscreen during the opening credits. But unless you’re specifically a Pam fan, you’d do a lot better boobie-wise with, say, Black Scorpion. For that matter, you’d do better everything-else-wise too. Compared to anything else, Black Scorpion is pretty close to the bottom of the heap, but it beats Barb Wire in every possible category.

Aside from the dubious charms of Ms. Anderson, or Mrs. Lee as she was at that time (and Tommy Lee provides guitar for the soundtrack, giving this a bit of the odor of a vanity project), what we got here is just a really dull and ordinary low-budget action movie. At the midpoint I felt like I’d already been watching it for two hours. And every time you notice a parallel to Casablanca, the effect is only to make you embarrassed for how poorly they carried out their, uh, homage. You keep noticing instances where if they’d just made it a more exact imitation, it would have improved things greatly.

Pam delivers every single line in exactly the same lifeless tone... she only raises her voice in one scene where she’s talking over the noise of a helicopter. Like Tanya Roberts in Sheena, she is a far worse actor than anyone else around her... which is just what the bad-film fan hopes for. Pam wins, by a wide margin, the title of Worst Acting Performance In Any Comic Book Film. But unlike Roberts, she fails to provide the laughs you would hope for in a good bad movie... because Roberts tries to act, and fails hilariously, but Pam just doesn’t try at all. If you’ve seen the dorky-ass TV show VIP that she made more recently, well, her acting in that vehicle is tremendously improved over this movie. For that and other reasons, this film is just too damn dull to enjoy for its cheese value.

I would rate this as the most boring comic book film I’ve seen, despite the plenitude of action sequences.

(And yet the guy at the video store who I rented it from told me it was a good enjoyable action movie. He said the same about The Punisher (1989) too. Aren’t they supposed to staff those places with junior film snobs?)

Besides being the dullest of all comic book movies, this may also be the dumbest — at least if you exclude stuff made for children, such as the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It achieves a rating on the stupid-meter high enough to compete with Batman & Robin. Despite a plot that the entire audience already knows, thanks to Casablanca, every single piece of exposition is hammered home two or three times, just to make sure nobody can possibly miss it, no matter how unbelievable the resulting dialog becomes. Take idiotic dialog and idiot-level acting, and then take extra steps to dumb it down even further, to condescend to an audience assumed to be even dumber than the genii who created this, and you’ve got a level of intellection which in 29 states would be legal grounds for disconnecting life support.

But what does John Stanley say?

pretty good... Pamela Anderson Lee is a standout — in more ways than one... director David Hogan goes for the jugular.