Follow TV Tropes


Film / Tank Girl

Go To

"Listen up, cause I'm only telling you this once. I'm not bedtime story lady, so pay attention. It's 2033. The world is screwed now. You see, a while ago this humongous comet came crashing into the earth. Bam, total devastation. End of the world as we know it. No celebrities, no cable TV, no water. It hasn't rained in 11 years. Now 20 people gotta squeeze inside the same bathtub - so it ain't all bad."
Tank Girl

A 1995 film based on the notorious comic book series Tank Girl, starring Lori Petty as Tank Girl, Malcolm McDowell as Kesslee, Naomi Watts as Jet Girl and... rapper Ice-T as a human/kangaroo mutant hybrid.

In an apocalyptical future, a comet strikes Earth, drying up the world's oceans and making water the most valuable substance in the world, controlled by a single ruthless corporation, Water and Power, which charges exorbitant prices for the necessary resource. Becca and her group of friends live off the grid by controlling the last unowned water source, leading to a raid by Water and Power that ends with Becca forced into corporate slavery, while her child companion Sam is abducted and sent to a brothel. Becca's wise mouth and defiance makes her a target of the Water and Power's CEO Kesslee, who is determined to break her. He almost succeeds, except for the interference of Jet, a meek W&P mechanic who befriends Becca.

Becca makes an escape, taking along with her both Jet and a Water and Power tank that she tricks out to an anti-corporate battle machine. From there, the story becomes a wacky tale of a girl and her semi-sentient tank, as Becca, Jet, and the mutant resistance force known as the Rippers square off against Water and Power to save Sam...and maybe the rest of the world, too.

The film provides examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: At one point Tank Girl's tank runs out of shells, so she solves the issue by loading beer cans in the main cannon.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Jet Girl is meek and mousy, and lets the Water and Power mook push her around until she makes friends with Tank Girl. By the end of the movie, Jet has quit stuttering, is telling off people on the radio, cows the Reavers when they cross her, and even kills the mook who sexually harassed her.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Tank Girl has a boyfriend in the beginning, and hooks up with a guy at the end. But her immediate response to Jet Girl being sexually harassed is to pretend to be her girlfriend, and she refers to past sexual partners in the gender neutral unless referring to a specific one.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking
    Tank Girl: The Rippers are a demonic army of bloodthirsty, human-eating, purse-snatchin', mutant creatures.
  • Art Shift: The movie is interspersed with images drawn in the comic book style, as well as a few somewhat related animated sequences. This was pulled whenever they didn't have the money to shoot the scene they wanted (especially the ending) so they animated it instead.
  • Artistic License Biology: Kesslee, the head of Water & Power, uses a device to drain the water from the body of one of his mooks, however, it only drains barely more than a big glass. In average, the human body is composed by 70% of water. If it were possible to drain all the water from a human of average size, that would be about 42 liters (or 11 gallons) of water.
  • Artistic License Space: The impact of a comet somehow destroys so much of the Earth's water that it hasn't rained in 11 years.
  • Apocalypse How: Rebecca Buck or Tank Girl explains the back-story.
    Tank Girl: Listen up, cause I'm only telling you this once. I'm not bedtime story lady, so pay attention. It's 2033. The world is screwed now. You see, a while ago this humongous comet came crashing into the earth. Bam, total devastation. End of the world as we know it. No celebrities, no cable TV, no water. It hasn't rained in 11 years. Now 20 people gotta squeeze inside the same bathtub - so it ain't all bad.
  • Bad Boss: The Big Bad Kesslee. Oh, so much.
    • He kills a loyal minion/doctor because she couldn't repair his face. So, downloading him into a holographic projection of his head is somehow an IMPROVEMENT?!
    • He also kills a competent captain of his men, because he hadn't yet captured a small area of land. Maybe if he didn't kill all of his competent people, he would have survived.
  • Bespectacled Cutie: Jet Girl. When first met she's a nice, meek girl who's easily pushed around and is quite smart (an expert mechanic and pilot).
  • Big Bad: Kesslee, the Corrupt Corporate Executive who controls the world's water.
  • Bizarre Beverage Use: In the Final Battle, Tank Girl repeatedly shoots the Big Bad with soda cans from her tank's main cannon. There really doesn't seems to be much reason for her to do this other than the sheer hell of it.
  • Boyfriend Bluff: Tank Girl pretends that Jet Girl is her girlfriend to get Sgt. Small to leave Jet Girl alone.
  • Brain in a Jar: According to one of the animated sequences, Tank Girl's tank is controlled by one of these.
  • Bring It: Kesslee's gesture to Tank Girl's tank just before it starts firing at him.
  • Busby Berkeley Number: Crowd Song (and dance) to Cole Porter's "Let's Do It" at Liquid Silver.[1]
  • The Cameo: Iggy Pop as a pedophile.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Played With in the case of Tank Girl. She pretends to be an airhead at times, including making bizarre statements. However, when the chips are down she acts rationally enough - the crazy stuff is just her personality or an act, depending on the situation.
    • Rain Lady (a.k.a. Sub Girl) is presented as one of these. In the original ending, however, it becomes a case of The Cuckoolander Was Right as Rain Lady's prophesied rainstorm comes to pass.
  • Clapper Gag: A non-lights version. While the little girl Sam is held captive in the Liquid Silver resort she tricks a customer into grabbing a silver ball she has. When she claps her hands twice, the ball sends blades into the customer's hand, incapacitating him.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Tank Girl punishes The Madame (who was attempting to pimp Sam out to a pedophile) by forcing her to sing a campy song, "Let's Do It" by Cole Porter, in public.
  • Costume-Test Montage: After sneaking into a Liquid Silver dressing room, the heroine tries on a variety of outfits in an attempt at Dressing as the Enemy (nurse, dominatrix and one other).
  • Crapsack World: Albeit a very wacky one.
  • Crowd Song: Cole Porter's "Let's Do It" at Liquid Silver.
  • Cyborg: After Kesslee is seriously injured by Tank Girl, he undergoes expensive experimental surgery, replacing his damaged arm with a Swiss-Army Appendage and his damaged head with a holographic head emitted from a projector mounted on his neck stump (it's unclear how or where they moved his brain).
  • Damsel in Distress: Sam (the 10-year-old girl), repeatedly.
  • Death World: Let's see, an evil Mega-Corp with its own Mildly Military Elite Mooks hunting and killing whoever they can find, almost no water, monster killer kangaroos... check, check and check. Granted, it's parodied and subverted by the end.
  • The Dragon: Sergeant Small is this to Kesslee.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Tank Girl only calls Jet Girl by that name or some variation (e.g. Jet, Jettina, etc.).
  • Eye Pop: After Tank Girl and Jet Girl escape from Water And Power, there's an animated interlude with the two girls driving in Tank Girl's tank. At one point Jet Girl's eyes bug out of their sockets at Tank Girl's antics.
  • Fanservice: Tank Girl and Jet Girl sometimes wear scanty costumes, and the classy brothel Liquid Silver runs on it.
  • Feminist Fantasy: Amidst all the Black Comedy, rampant fanservice, and general wackiness, the film qualifies as such, with director Rachel Talalay pushing to have the film made in large part because she admired the feminist themes of the original comic series. The title character is outrageously sex-positive, rebellious, and always has a firm grip on whatever shenanigans she finds herself in despite her idiosyncrasies, and several beats in the film are directly about empowering women against various forms of systemic oppression, from Jet Girl's Character Development from "meek slave" to "hypercompetent Wrench Wench" to liberating the sex slaves of Liquid Silver. Several modern critics have argued that this movie — with its female power fantasy narrative and post-apocalyptic/punk aesthetic — was the prototype for the similarly non-conventional Feminist Fantasy Mad Max: Fury Road.
  • Finishing Stomp: Tank Girl does it to the locator device on Kesslee's wrist.
  • Flatline: Happens to Kesslee after his head is cut off.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: The brothel owner's dress with the feathers arranged like Shoulders of Doom.
  • Gentle Giant: Booga, the title character's Ripper love interest with the mind of a child.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Subverted. Sgt. Small is disgusted when Tank Girl and Jet Girl make out.
  • Girls Behind Bars: Tank Girl and Jet Girl spend some time incarcerated in Water and Power's coed prison.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: The Madame forces Sam to dress in a Stripperific schoolgirl uniform, complete with painted-on Youthful Freckles, to make her more attractive to pedophiles.
  • Groin Attack: TG nails a Water & Power trooper with his own gun and uses a crushing grip on two male Liquid Silver dancers.
  • A Handful for an Eye: While Tank Girl is on guard duty, a Water and Power trooper sneaks up on her. She throws sand/dirt in his eyes to distract him.
  • Hate Sink: Kesslee. It's hard to get more repulsive than a Corrupt Corporate Executive who steals water, the very source of virtually all life on earth, for corporate gain. It doesn't help that corporations like Nestle do in fact steal water from impoverished countries in real life.
  • Hit You So Hard, Your X Will Feel It!: The title character tells Kesslee "I'm gonna hit you so hard, your children will be born bruised!"
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Kesslee has a device that drains a person's blood from their body, killing them, and purifies it into drinkable water. He uses it to kill one of his subordinates, and at the end Tank Girl uses one to kill him.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Tank Girl is fairly competent on her own, but her sidekick Jet Girl is significantly saner and somewhat more practical, meaning that because of her most of Tank Girl's schemes don't end with her dead.
  • Idiot Ball: Tank Girl deciding to stop for a musical number in Liquid Silver instead of escaping, which leads to Sam being captured (again).
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: After Jet rescues Rebecca from being killed by the tank's anti-intruder defenses:
    Jet Girl: This tank isn't... operational.
    Rebecca: (grabs her in a choke hold) How do I know you're not lying?
    Jet Girl: (gasping) Because, if-if I was lying, your lungs would be full of cyanide gas.
    Rebecca: (releases her) Cool!
  • Interspecies Romance: Tank Girl and Booga are a human and a Mutant-kangaroo-that-was-formerly-a-dog.
  • Intimidation Demonstration: At the beginning of Tank Girl and Keslee's fight, they are standing on a suspended catwalk. Keslee uses the spinning blades on his artificial arm to cut through two supporting cables to show Tank Girl how dangerous they are.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Tank Girl and Jet Girl when they enter Liquid Silver.
  • Magic Brakes: After Tank Girl steals the Water & Power truck.
    Jet Girl: There's a big cliff coming up on you. Now hit the brakes. Hit the brakes!
    Tank Girl: Brakes aren't working, girl! Plan B!
    Jet Girl: Get outta there! Quick! Jump!
  • Makeover Montage: Rebecca making over the outside of her tank in an animated montage. If you look closely you'll notice that it gets made over from a PT-76 light tank to a M-51 Super Sherman.
  • Meatgrinder Surgery: The doctor performing Kesslee's brain transplant begins by chopping his head off with what looks like an enormous power tool rather than medical equipment.
  • Mega-Corp: Water & Power, which is in possession of what little water remains on the planet.
  • Murderous Thighs: Tank Girl uses this to perform a Neck Snap on a Water & Power soldier.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: "Let's Do It" at Liquid Silver.
  • My Little Panzer: Sam's Danger Ball is one of these, much to Iggy Pop's surprise. It shoots out blades when anyone claps their hands nearby.
  • Neck Lift: Tank Girl to Jet Girl twice while inside a tank.
  • Neck Snap: Happens at least three times: Tank Girl to a Water and Power trooper after offering him an "oil change"; a Ripper to a W&P trooper during the attack that freed Tank Girl, and a Ripper to a W&P trooper during the attack on the W&P fortress.
  • Never Going Back to Prison: When Tank Girl first encounters Jet Girl, she assumes Jet Girl is there to take her back to the prison she escaped from, and makes her feelings about the place known.
    I ain't goin' back there. You're gonna have to kill me first.
  • Our Showers Are Different: The title character takes a shower using what seems to be dust falling on her.
  • Parental Incest: Tank Girl jokes that her first time was with her father.
  • Phallic Weapon: Tank Girl has a moment loving on the gun of the tank she ganks from Water & Power. To the tune of Shaft, no less. And later on, explicitly called out as she rides the cannon up to the window of a truck. "Feeling a little inadequate?"
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The brothel owner's dress with the feathers arranged like Shoulders of Doom.
  • Pineapple Surprise: How Tank Girl kills a random mook.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Both Tank Girl and Jet Girl.
    • After dropping a bucket of water on Kesslee's head and shorting him out:
    Tank Girl: Try this close to your heart, asshole! (TG SLAMS the draining device into Kesslee's chest. Long pause as the mechanism drains him as the collapsible container steadily fills up.) Have I hurt you yet?
    • As Jet Girl points a gun at her sexual harasser Sergeant Small:
    Sergeant Small: Fuck Me!
    Jet Girl: How many times do I have to tell you? I don't want to! [shoots him]
  • Quicksand Sucks: Subverted. Those were instead the Rippers' subgates.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Rippers after DeeTee is killed.
  • Saharan Shipwreck: Near the beginning a ship is seen on a dried harbor bottom.
  • Sand Is Water
    • Tank Girl takes a shower while in the Water & Power prison. In sand. Mmm.
    • "Rain Lady" corresponds to the character "Sub Girl" from the comics, and plows her submarine through the desert for the Final Battle!
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: While the Rippers are taking apart the guards inside Water and Power, Sergeant Small says "Screw this, man," and takes off.
  • Seize Them!: As Tank Girl and Sam are escaping Liquid Silver, the Madame recognizes Tank Girl and shouts "Seize them! Guards!"
  • Self-Destructive Charge: DeeTee during the final battle inside Water and Power.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: The Rippers in their initial appearances.
  • Shout-Out
    • To The Wizard of Oz - the bucket of water falling on Kesslee's head.
    • Tank Girl imitates Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard while posing as a fashion photographer, complete with sunglasses, leopard print shawl, and cigarette holder.
  • Shrinking Violet: Jet Girl starts out like this. Tank Girl quickly slaps it out of her.
  • Skip the Anesthetic: An injured Kesslee orders his doctor not to give him painkillers.
  • Smoking Barrel Blowout: Jet Girl after she shoots Sergeant Small.
  • Sorry, I'm Gay: Tank Girl does this on Jet Girl's behalf to stop Sergeant Small's sexual harassment.
  • Spiteful Spit: Tank Girl to a Water & Power trooper when she's captured.
  • Spontaneous Choreography: The Liquid Silver prostitutes during the Crowd Song.
  • Stan Winston: Designed and created the Rippers.
  • Storming the Castle: Tank Girl, her tank, Jet Girl and the Rippers assault the Water & Power fortress at the end of the movie.
  • Tank Goodness: Tank Girl has a tank with an astonishing assortment of accessories as well as a Brain in a Jar controlling it.
  • Tap on the Head
    • A Water & Power trooper knocks out Tank Girl after capturing her outside her house.
    This is me, unconscious.
    • Tank Girl knocks out Sub Girl (AKA "Rain Lady") by tapping her on the top of the head with a plastic fish.
    • A Water & Power guard is knocked out from behind with a bowling pin.
  • Torpedo Tits: Rebecca is wearing a missile bra after spending some "quality time" with Booga, and later in the animated closer, after surfing on a missile, the twin missiles fire away and destroys the Water and Power Building.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: While Jet Girl is stealing clothing inside Liquid Silver's garage, a barrel with fire inside it can be seen in the background.
  • Truth Serum: The Rippers use nitrous oxide to try to get the truth out of Tank Girl and Jet Girl.
  • Two Words: I Can't Count: After the villain screams in Tank Girl's face, she counts "your teeth" as one word.
    "I got two words for you...Brush your teeth!"
  • Vanity License Plate: The tank has the license plate "TANK" on the back and "KNAT" on the front.
  • We Will Meet Again: Kesslee uses the "This isn't over" variant.
  • Wild Take: The animated Jet Girl's reaction upon seeing the animated Tank Girl pointing a tank's cannon at her before firing.
  • World of Ham and Cheese: Lori Petty is a freedom fighter who drives a tank with "Tank" and "Knat" license plates, a cyborg brain, a charcoal grill and loads its cannon with beer cans when she runs out of ammo. Ice-T proudly plays a mutant kangaroo. But most of all, Malcolm McDowell plays Kesslee, the director of Water and Power. He knows he's just there to make fun of the whole crazy mess of a movie. WATER! IS! POWER!
  • Wrench Wench: Jet Girl is an expert mechanic.
  • You Have Failed Me: Kesslee to Captain Derouche, a subordinate who failed to stop the Rippers.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: The Madam at Liquid Silver.