Barb Wire (1996), based on the Dark Horse comic book, is a sci-fi film that pay homage to James Bond the high-tech agent, Barbarella the futuristic heroine and, above all, Casablanca the noir film.
It is the year 2017, during the Second American Civil War, and Barb lives in Steel Harbor, the last independent city in a fascist America.
A woman is being tortured in a high-tech lab, until she tells them about a leader of the resistance, Karina, a heroine who used to be a government scientist but then defected and took with her precious secrets. The head of the fascists wants her, no matter what, and wants her alive.
Barb does not care for politics. She claims she is only loyal to money. Barb rides her motorcycle like a punk through the ruins of the devastated city, while in the alleys a violent war is waged between the rebels and the fascists.
She got a license for prostitution and runs that business in one of the worst neighborhoods. She is picked up by a fat pervert who lives in an exclusive building, where the elevator requires the retina check. It is actually a trick to get into the building. Using high-tech devices, she breaks into the next apartment and handcuffs a man. Two bodyguards trie to stop her, but she shoots back like a professional hitman and beats them like a karate master. What makes her seriously mad is when one of the men calls her "babe".
She brings the prey to the customer on her motorcycle and then rides away, cold and indifferent.
The police enters the nightclub searching for members of the resistance (by using a machine that identifies retina prints) and Barb has to bribe the chief, Willis, to ger rid of them. Then the real fascists enter, in uniform, led by an evil colonel, and talk business to her: they want to hire her to find the heroine of the resistance, Karina. Right at that moment, Karina and a friend walk in. The guy, Axel, has come to ask Barb for help. He first meets Barb's brother, Charlie, a tough kid, left blind by a fascist grenade, who warns him. Axel still approaches Barb, and Barb hits him straight in the face: he is the ex-boyfriend who dumped her, and she obviously has neither forgotten nor forgiven.
Karina wants to cross the border into Canada, but would never elude the retina scanners. She needs a pair of magical contact lenses that allow their wearer to pass through the retina scanners. And her partners tell her that only one person has the connections to get them: Barb.
Barb remembers an Apocalypse Now kind of scene, when she wants a marine with Axel.
It turns out that the magical contact lessons are in the possession of the very customer she worked for on her last case. The fascists kill all of his men because they know it and want the contact lenses. He is scared and begs Barb to help him escape from the city. Barb is indifferent to his fate and refuses to help him or to take the contact lenses. The customer, unseen, hides them in her kitchen and then leaves.
Off hours, Axel visits Barb in the nightclub and they kiss. Axel introduces Karina as his wife and Karina explains that she was part of a program to build a biological weapon that could destroy the world. Now she needs to reach the free world and tell them that there is a cure. They beg her to help them retrieve the contact lenses, but Barb is now very hostile. The fascists enter the building in mass, and start breaking everything. Barb, Charlie and Barb's faithful majordomo are powerless. But Charlie, as he takes shelter under a counter, finds the contact lenses. When the fascists leave, he tells Barb. Charlie would like to help the resistance, but Barb is only interested in the money and hopes this deal will get them to Paris. Barb takes the motorcycle and goes to negotiate with the king of the underworld, a man so fat that he lives inside the mouth of a caterpillar. In the meantime, Charlie walks into a trap of the fascists, who have occupied the hideout of the resistance. While Barb obtains free passage for herself and Charlie to the airport located in the free world, Charlie is being tortured with electrical shocks by the fascists.
Barb is back at the nightclub and is getting ready to leave for Paris. Alarmed that Charlies is not there, Barb looks for him and finds him dead in the hideout of the resistance. After a few tears, she turns from a heartless mercenary into a freedom fighter, and leads Karina and Alex towards freedom.
But the fat man betrays them. Once Barb gives him the contact lenses, he calls in the fascists and the police. Thankfully, the police chief switches side and hands Barb a grenade that she uses to create a distraction (the grenade explodes in the fat man's lap). The four jump on a truck and drive away, chased by the fascists. Barb decides to stay heroically behind and protect the escape of Willis, Axel and Karina. On her motorcycle she wreaks havoc. She's about to be killed by the evil colonel when Axel comes to rescue her with a crane. Barb and the evil colonel fight while hanging from the crane's rope, until he makes the mistake of calling her "babe"...
Alex and Karina depart on the airplane that is on the other side of the barbed wire, while Barb and Willis plan to fly to Paris.