• Barb Wire (Mill Creek Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: February 19th, 2019.
    Director: David Hogan
    Cast: Pamela Anderson, Xander Berkeley, Udo Kier, Jack Noseworthy, Clint Howard
    Year: 1996
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    Barb Wire – Movie Review:

    In 1994 indie publisher Dark Horse Comics wanted to get in on some of that sweet, sweet superhero action that had Marvel and D.C. household names and, as such, the Comics Greatest World imprint was born. From out of this ‘shared universe’ came a few titles, most of which weren’t all that interesting (X and Ghost being the exceptions) but seemingly the most popular was Barb Wire, written by John Acurdi and illustrated by Lee Moder. Barb was a big-chested blonde who ran a bar and worked as a bounty hunter in the rundown city of Steel Harbor. She had fighting skills and attitude and… yeah. She beat a lot of people up. The title evidently proved popular enough to warrant a movie adaptation despite the original run of the comic lasting only nine issues.

    After coming to fame on Home Improvement and Baywatch, February 1990’s Playmate Of The Month, Pamela Anderson (credited as Pamela Anderson Lee in the film – as she was still married to Motley Crue’s drummer when the film was made) was cast in the lead. Music video director David Hogan was brought on board to direct (replacing Adam Rifkin) and the rest is bad movie history.

    So, what’s it about? Set in the distant future of 2017, we open with a scene wherein a buxom blonde performs a sexy dance, sprayed down with water inside an industrial looking nudie bar of some sort. Her buoyant fake breasts frequently pop out of her leather bustier much to the delight of the men in the crowd. This woman is Barbara "Barb Wire" Kopetski (Anderson) and she’s a bounty hunter. Don’t call her babe.

    Anyway, America is in the midst of the Second Civil War and she wants to make enough money to make it to Canada. We see her in action when, after her performance, she poses as a hooker and seduces a fat guy in a gump suit – it’s all a ruse, she’s really there to take in a perp. One hyper-stylized shootout later and she’s handed him off to Schmitz (Clint Howard) and cashed in.

    She also spends a lot of time running her bar, The Hammerhead, where her blind brother Charlie (Jack Noseworthy) drinks for free and her assistant Curly (Udo Kier) does what he can to keep things moving. One night, he place is raided by Alexander Willis (Xander Berkeley), the local chief of police. He’s looking for Dr. Corrina "Cora D" Devonshire (Victoria Rowell), a former government operative who has information Willis wants… information about a dangerous bio-weapon. Some time later, Cora D does actually show up at the club and with Barb’s former flame Axel Hood (Temuera Morrison) in tow. She and Axel had a thing before the war split them apart. Anyway, he wants to get Cora to Canada and to do this he needs to get her some special contact lenses that will allow her to fake her way through a retinal scan, lenses that eventually wind up in Barb’s hands. She’s not going to hand them over though, instead she wants to sell them to Big Fatso (Andrew Rosey Brown), who is, as his name suggests, a big fatso who eats chicken legs will lounging in the shovel of a front loader. When he double crosses her, it all hits the fan and soon she’s got to contend not just with Willis, but with Colonel Pryzer (Steve Railsback) and his heavily armed goon squad too!

    Oddly reminiscent of Casablanca, this movie relies far too heavily than it should on Anderson’s acting abilities. While she may have the top heavy Barbie Doll look that was popular at the time the movie was made, she’s got all the range of a limp noodle. She doesn’t emote, she doesn’t seem engaged in anything, she’s just sort of there. Hogan’s direction festishizes her throughout the film. No doubt a big part of the reason for its existence is to ogle its leading lady as she struts about in skintight clothing or sometimes considerably less – but she proves incapable of properly carrying the film and can’t handle even the film’s lightweight dramatic scenes without coming across as hackneyed and uninspired. This does, however, lead to plenty of unintentionally amusing moments scattered about the film, but let it be clear – we’re laughing at her, not with her.

    The movie does feature an interesting supporting cast. Xander Berkeley, now famous for his work on The Walking Dead, delivers the best performance in the film. He seems to be having a lot of fun as the shifty cop and he delivers enough energy and enthusiasm to make the part memorable. Udo Kier might be in full on ‘cashing that paycheck’ mode but he’s still fucking Udo Kier so you just shut up and appreciate the fact that you’re lucky enough to see him here. He seems rather amused by himself through much of the film and is fun to watch. Steve Railsback makes an okay villain and Andrew Rosey Brown is, if nothing else, memorable as the fat guy who eats chicken. Clint Howard basically plays Clint Howard but nobody plays Clint Howard better than Clint Howard so he gets a pass. The rest of the cast are forgettable.

    The movie does feature a LOT of action. Often times this action involves an obvious stunt double playing Anderson’s part but there is a lot of it and it is sometimes impressively choreographed. The movie doesn’t seem to be at all concerned with the fact that it is base exploitation, reveling in violence and blatant sexuality. You could argue that the movie presents a strong female heroine if you wanted to, because Barb is able to outsmart all of the men around her and not only run her own business but function as a bad ass bounty hunter at the same time. So it has that going for it. It also has a lot of retina scanning if that’s your thing, and a gratuitous Wild Turkey product placement scene. Fans of ‘dummy deaths’ will appreciate the ending.

    Not enough for you? How about the soundtrack? It features contributions from the late Michael Hutchence, Salt-N-Pepa, Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano, and Gun’s cover of Cameo’s Word Up. Oh, and let we forget, this move is the reason that Tommy Lee gave us the classic track, Planet Boom. Boom over here, boom over here, boom everywhere. Suck it.

    Barb Wire – Blu-ray Review:

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents Barb Wire on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer with the film framed in its original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio. Although this is not the same transfer that was used on Universal’s Blu-ray release from 2011 (that disc was VC-1, this one is AVC), it stands to reason that it was taken from the same master. As such, the DNR that plagued that release is here as well, things look a little too smooth and waxy and eating up some of the detail that should be there. Still, it’s not a horrible transfer. Colors look pretty good and black levels are fine. Some occasional edge enhancement can be spotted if you’re looking for it, and it’s hard not to spot some black crush. It’s watchable, sure, while leaving plenty of room for improvement. The feature takes up just over 23GBs of space on the 25GB disc.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is aggressive and occasionally bombastic. For all the film’s many and obvious flaws, it does feature a lot of action and these scenes demonstrate some impressive channel separation. Dialogue stays clean and clear, there are no problems with balance. Bass response is strong, the score sounds good. The audio here is strong.

    There are no extras on the disc at all, just menus and chapter selection.

    Barb Wire – The Final Word:

    Barb Wire is ridiculous. It’s not good, but it is entertaining if you’re in the right mood for non-stop nonsense and an impressively bad performance from Anderson in the lead. The supporting cast and the over the top chaos and violence are, thankfully, enough to make this a fun watch – maybe not a bad idea to have a few beers first though. Mill Creek Entertainment’s Blu-ray doesn’t look amazing and it’s barebones but it’s got strong audio and it’s priced right.

    Click on the images below for full sized
    Barb Wire Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      One of my favorite guilty pleasures. Here's hoping the Unrated cut gets a new transfer sometime down the line. Love that Word Up cover...and the boobs.
    1. cinemacide's Avatar
      cinemacide -
      This is a fun watch and Anderson seems to be having a good time. Perfect blind buy for the price.
    1. Newt Cox's Avatar
      Newt Cox -
      I got the first Blu release last year cheap. Decent film.