I’m not sure whether it’s coincidence or a nifty marketing move, but the home release of Turbo Kid hits UK shelves on the same day as the mighty Mad Max: Fury Road. That’s nicely fitting as the Mad Max series is one of the cultural touchstones that Turbo Kid is drawing from. It’s a love letter to a genre that was damn near created by George Miller‘s post-apocalyptic trailblazers. Starting life as a contest entry called “T is for Turbo” created to feature in indie horror anthology The ABCs of Death, the directing/writing team of François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell moved past not being picked for what ended up being a rather crappy film and expanded their concept into the fully-fledged Turbo Kid.
In the BMX dominated post-apocalyptic future of 1997, a survivor known as The Kid (Munro Chambers) lives alone in a bunker full of scavenged trinkets and supplies. He obsesses over comic books, especially the ones about a character named Turbo Rider. On one of his scavenging missions he meets a young woman named Apple (Laurence Leboeuf) who decides that they should be best friends forever and after some initial reluctance, the two team up. However, their paths end up crossing the vicious Zeus (Michael Ironside), a warlord who controls the Wasteland’s water supply.
Nostalgia still has a massive influence over the current pop culture climate and you can’t move without bumping into something spoofing the 1980s. It’s starting to feel a little played out to me, but Turbo Kid has gone a long way into convincing me that that particular mine may still have something to give. It’s an unashamed throwback to the video store B movie knock-offs of the past-the kind of budget titles that never lived up to their eye-catching box art However, unlike something like the recent crowdfunded film Kung Fury, it aims for something deeper than “weren’t the ’80s craaaazy?” humour. Turbo Kid is a functional story in its own right and manages to be quirky, romantic, funny and ridiculously gory at the same time. The performances are great and ground the whole thing. Most of the cast play it absolutely straight. Munro Chambers makes an affable lead, but MVP for me was Laurence Lebeouf. Apple is a tough character to get right. She’s an excitable, enthusiastic manic pixie dream girl type who never crosses into annoying territory. I thought she was fantastic and her relationship with The Kid is genuinely sweet. It’s also a treat to see genre master Michael Ironside scowl and ham his way through proceedings.
What I was impressed by most with Turbo Kid was how well it balances its various elements. It never tips the balance into out-and-out zany spoofery, which I appreciated. When Apple is introduced, it threatened to turn into a cutesy indie romance, but before I started to feel bile rising in my throat, the film developed into a legitimately charming story that happens to have insane fights and buckets of over-the-top gore. Like with all the best genre parodies, you can feel the affection for the thing being lampooned. The writers/directors know these films inside out and have lifted story conventions and character arcs and assembled them into their own original project. The film is a comedy, but doesn’t have many actual jokes. There’s slapstick violence and the occasional funny exchange, but it’s like the whole thing is a big meta joke. The casting of Michael Ironside, an actor who has played many straight-faced Zeus-like characters in the past is a perfect example of the kind of inside “gags” the film contains. The awesome synth score also compliments the film perfectly. The opening BMX sequence complete with freeze frame and pulsing main theme put a huge, goofy smile on my face.
If you’re the sort of person who occasionally indulges in revisiting schlocky ’80s cult titles and cheers charmingly low-fi physical gore effects and the like, Turbo Kid is singing from the same weirdly specific hymn sheet you do and you should waste no time in tracking down a copy. The film’s appeal reaches further than just that subset of fans, however. I’d recommend it to most open-minded people who may like an off-kilter adventure featuring some genuinely likeable characters. I had a blast with it.
Sci-fi, Action | Canada, 2015 | 18 | Lionsgate Film | 5th October 2015 (UK) | Dir.François Simard,Anouk Whissell,
Yoann-Karl Whissell | Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside |Buy: [DVD]