Turbo Kid (2015)
-Review by Nic Brown-
I grew up in the 1980s. I saw “The Goonies”, “Back to the Future” and “Ghostbusters” as first run movies in the theater. While I was dosing down those staples of ‘80s high end culture, I was also consuming an even larger diet of movies from the local video store. On their shelves was a treasure trove of entertainment. Movies like “The Road Warrior”, “World Gone Wild”, “City Limits”, “Cherry 2000” and “Hell Comes to Frogtown” were viewing staples. Though these films’ visions of the future were dark, they were also somehow hopeful. I watched as heroic, and sometimes not-so-heroic, characters struggled against evil forces. Cars crashed, mohawks were worn, and, all things considered, for an apocalypse things seemed pretty good.
Flash forward to the future. Not the life-and-death struggle for gasoline, water or fertile women depicted in those movies from the ‘80s. No I’m talking about the future we live in today: the internet, smart phones, streaming video, and the potentially apocalyptic elections of 2016. A world where a certain amount of nostalgia exists for a time that no one would’ve imagined anyone would miss: the 1980s. I won’t say the time is idealized, but many filmmakers and writers have tried to capture that certain… something. That thing that made the ‘80s unique in its entertainment contributions to the world. Few succeed. For every “Ready Player One” there are a dozen “That ‘80s Show”s. So when I saw the summary of a new film available on streaming that was written and directed by a trio of filmmakers: François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell, I’ll be honest: I had the bar set pretty low. That was my mistake because their film “Turbo Kid” was a delightfully surprising dose of ‘80s goodness wrapped in a shell of high-quality filmmaking.
“Turbo Kid” is the story of… The Kid (Munro Chambers), a survivor of a mostly-world-ending war that has left what remains of humanity in a constant struggle for what few resources are left. Water appears to be chief among the coveted commodities of this new world. And the main mode of transportation: modified BMX bikes. Guns are a rarity, so The Kid and the other survivors mostly use clubs, knives and other improvised weapons to settle their disputes.
The Kid spends his days scavenging for food, comics, and things he can trade at the local outpost for water. He is strangely isolated from the other survivors, but this seems to be more by choice than by any other factor. Still The Kid seems satisfied, if not exactly happy, with his life. He spends his days riding his bike through the wastes looking for loot, and his free time reading comics and imagining himself as his favorite character - Turbo Man.
Nothing lasts forever, including The Kid’s self-imposed isolation, which ends in a spectacular fashion with the arrival of Apple (Laurence Leboeuf) a quirky, energetic, and naively happy young woman who declares that The Kid is her new best friend and proceeds to insert herself into his life. The Kid resists at first, but soon her seemingly bottomless optimism and enthusiasm win him over. Unfortunately, just when The Kid realizes how much he’s come to care for Apple, she’s kidnapped by the forces of the most powerful warlord in the region: Zeus (Michael Ironside). The Kid is almost captured himself, but as he escapes he stumbles into the hidden wreckage of an advanced aircraft of some kind. Inside he discovers that his favorite comic book hero, Turbo Man, was not only real, but that this was his ship. Now The Kid has his chance to become more than just a survivor. He has a chance to become the hero he always wanted to be and his first job: save his new best friend from the wasteland’s most evil warlord and his henchmen.
“Turbo Kid” is a film full of surprises. From the start the triple threat of filmmakers behind the movie, François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell, capture a mid-1980s vibe that only grows stronger as the movie goes on. It is an odd mix in some ways as the movie has a certain innocence to it that reminds me of films from the time like “The Goonies” or “Adventures in Babysitting”. At the same time “Turbo Kid” drops gallons of blood and guts (literally at times) on the viewers as the action bursts onto the screen in a torrent of over-the-top violence. Somehow, these two elements, usually mutually exclusive, work together to create a uniquely enjoyable experience. “Turbo Kid” is reminiscent of a kid’s film with its BMX bikes, brightly colored characters and very chaste treatment of the burgeoning romance between The Kid and Apple. Yet, the before mentioned ultra-violence ensures that no one mistakes this for anything of the sort.
The secret to the success of “Turbo Kid” may lie in its characters. As The Kid, Chambers brings to life many of the reluctant heroes popular in the films “Turbo Kid” pays homage to. Of course The Kid only really comes into his own after he meets Apple and Leboeuf is amazing as she cheerfully steals every scene she is in with her performance. It is worth saying that the story and the characters in “Turbo Kid” are not terribly original, but then again that is part of what makes the film work. Filled with crazy costumes (Skeletron is all I have to say about that), stereotypical characters and tons of nostalgia, “Turbo Kid” is a BMX fun ride from the movie’s gleaming chrome animated title to its synthesizer based theme song. “Turbo Kid” is a tribute to some of the best and worst films from the days of Reganomics, The Cold War and the VCR. So get out your aerobics gear, plug in your Atari 2600 and grab a can of New Coke and check out “Turbo Kid” before Zeus decides to introduce you to his water reclamation plant.