Turbo Kid (2015) / Action-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated :Unrated, but would definitely be R for pervasive violence, gore, and language
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Munro Chambers, Michael Ironside, Laurence Leboeuf, Aaron Jeffery, Edwin Wright, Romano Orzari
Director: Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Screenplay: Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Review published February 4, 2016
Turbo Kid is a Canadian/New Zealand-produced campy retro pastiche of some of the kitschy b-movie entertainment of the 1980s. We get a tip of the hat to its intent from the opening screen depicting that what we're about to see may have been extracted from a long-lost laserdisc of the era (though with much better resolution, these days). It's been tried before, with hit-and-miss results, but Turbo Kid represents on that gets it mostly right. Playing simultaneously as a spoof and a loving homage to Eighties junk-food cinema, comic books, and video games, it's definitely going to be more successful for those who remember the era of VHS, BMX, and the NES, plus pulpy adventure films both popular and obscure, especially Mad Max and the Indiana Jones series.
Being that this is a film that is presumed to have come out in the 1980s, the film is set in 1997 -- or, at least, what people in the 1980s might have assumed 1997 could be like -- in a wastelands-riddled Earth following an apocalyptic war. Our unnamed BMX-riding hero, an orphan credited simply as The Kid (Chambers, Godsend), is one of many humans who have to scavenge for sustenance, and for the occasional valuable item, in order to make it from day to day. The eye-patched bad guy of our story is Zeus, played by a man who is no stranger to Eighties' schlock, Michael Ironside (Stan Lee's Mighty 7), who claims the territory that most of the surrounding community resides in, especially the ever-precious potable water, with the help of a host of despicable villains, including his mute, skull-masked, and buzz saw-blade wielding second-in-command, Skeletron (Wright, Slow West). The Kid makes a couple of friends of his own in the super-friendly, kooky pink-haired girl named Apple (Leboeuf, The Little Queen) and a rugged man-of-adventure in arm-wrestling champ Frederic (Jeffery, X-Men: Origins: Wolverine), but really comes to his own when he discovers the suit of none other than his childhood comic book idol, Turbo Rider, who sports the powerful Turbo Glove to help him vanquish his enemies and destroy villainy in the lawless lands.
Written and directed by the Quebec-based trio of Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell, aka RKSS (Road Kill Super Stars), who should get plenty of kudos for being able to tread that fine line between good-natured camp and grisly violence that have done in many efforts with less deft hands at the helm. Though the film might seem like a relatively benign film from its cover, I feel the need to strongly warn potential viewers that the film's extreme violence quotient is quite grisly, to the point of absurdity (I'd say, RoboCop levels), as fight scenes are peppered with beheadings, disembowelings, and fountains of gushing blood galore. None of it is serious, of course, as there's not a moment of genuine emotion or remorse to be found from this surface-level actioner, though we're not so distanced from what's going on that we don't root for The Kid and Apple to emerge victorious in each successive battle sequence, and their friendship is surprisingly sweet in nature, particularly given the zaniness of the comic delivery and the grotesque nature of some of the blood and viscera on display.
Turbo Kid's first incarnation came as a short film with a high concept, dubbed "T for Turbo", intended for the ABCs of Death short-film anthology. Plenty of nods to the 1980s exist, though nothing outside of an early appearance of a Rubik's Cube or a later ViewMaster may be specifically brand-identifiable, even for those who, like me, grew up in the decade. As with most films from the 1980s, the makers of Turbo Kid rely mostly on real stunt work and the use of practical effects for most of its scenes, only dipping into the CGI bag on rare occasions such as when the mysteriously powerful Turbo Glove comes into play. Other than the consistently fun tone and the satirical concepts, where Turbo Kid also excels is in its casting, with strongly likeable leads who deliver amusing performances, and good tongue-in-cheek panache. It's hard to imagine anyone else in these roles more perfectly suited than the ones cast here.
If you're of an age, or of a mind at least, to adore such properties as "Mega Man", Rad or BMX Bandits, Mad Max, and all of the Cannon and Troma studio b-movies that were influenced by the best that Lucas and Spielberg had to offer, this is definitely one you really shouldn't miss. It's a really fun instant-cult film for those on its wacked-out wavelength.
©2016 Vince Leo