Turbo Kid (2015)
Coming Soon To a Wasteland Near You!
What would’ve resulted if someone were to have given a 12-year-old kid a moderate budget, a competent team of filmmakers and effects artists, and complete creative control, to produce a film back in the early to mid eighties? Well, Turbo Kid’s your answer folks! An 80s-tastic homage to BMX-riding, science fiction and Mad Max pictures, Turbo Kid is an off-the-wall coming-of-age story that’s shot like an evocative music video, one that features some of the craziest practical gore effects ever put to screen. Playing on film enthusiast’s love for pop-culture and all things retro, Turbo Kid originated after a submission for The ABCs of Death (2012) anthology by Montréal trio, RKSS Films — Anouk Whissell, her husband François Simard, and brother, Yoann-Karl Whissell — titled T is for Turbo, caught the attention of New Zealand based producer Ant Timpson back in 2011. Although T is for Turbo wasn’t selected to feature in the horror anthology, Timpson was so impressed by what he saw, that he eventually approached the threesome about expanding their idea into a fully-fledged film. Four years later, and we have the aptly titled Turbo Kid.
The story follows an orphan, simply known as ‘The Kid’ (Munro Chambers), who lives in a hidden underground bunker in a drought ridden post-apocalyptic future version of 1997. You see, The Kid is a bit of a scavenger — he’s a little like Wall-E in that sense — as he spends the majority of his days collecting eighties relics and other paraphernalia which he either keeps in his trench or trades for fresh water — he’s got a viewmaster along with other cool sci-fi toys. When he’s not scouring the land for kitsch goodies, The Kid’s minding his own business, usually out of sight, reading comic books about the adventures of Turbo Man. Viewers eventually learn that this desolate landscape is being ruled by a one-eyed oppressor who goes by the name of Zeus (Michael Ironside), a sadistic tyrant who’s producing his own supply of H2O. The Kid quickly finds himself entwined with Zeus’ thugs after his perpetually cheerful, self-appointed new best friend, Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), is kidnapped and taken back to Zeus’ headquarters, where she’s held hostage. Stumbling on a repainted NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) power glove that works as a space-blaster, The Kid joins forces with Frederic (Aaron Jeffery), an arm-wrestling cowboy whose manners are far from polite, and together the pair plans to take on the overlord and his masked army of henchmen. Can The Kid muster up the courage to save Apple and become a hero, just like the ones that he reads about in his comic books?
Embracing almost every element that my inner child would classify as ‘cool’ — robots, super powers, a wasteland setting, arm wrestling, BMX bikes and tones of violence — Turbo Kid doesn’t take itself too seriously as writers/directors Anouk Whissell, François Simard and Yoann-Karl Whissell have fun bringing this industrial landscape to life, even if, their ordinary script could have done with a few funnier moments. In this future, energy is scarce, thus BMX bikes are used as the primary mode of transportation, with each vehicle being personalized by color-coded bike/helmet combinations and other nifty add-ons. In the same way, given the feature’s cheap looking outdoor setting, almost every shot in the picture is rich in detail; from the meticulous costume designs, made of junkyard scraps, which evoke brightly colored comic book artwork, to the 8-bit video game winks, Turbo Kid is a smorgasbord of geek culture with clever nods to the VHS era and its cheesy vintage home video lameness — there’s even a gleefully awesome The Evil Dead (1981) reference in there. But the icing on this nostalgia-glazed cake is the John Carpenter-esque score by Jean-Philippe Bernier and Jean-Nicolas Leupi and the synthesized dancepop sounds of Le Matos’ Atari-era ‘Rise of Turbo Kid.’ Those with a genuine love for cult cinema will no doubt find a lot to enjoy in this retro treat.
Although Turbo Kid is pleasing for the most part, the flick has far too many flat spots, with little happening for large chunks at a time. Fortunately these low points are quickly forgotten once the picture’s B-grade, over-the-top practical effects kick into action. Given its teen-oriented narrative, the extreme violence in Turbo Kid works wonders when juxtaposed against its kid-friendly backdrop, particularly when the decapitations, disembowelment and gooey action clicks over to high gear at around the midway mark. Playing like an overly gory tongue-in-cheek Saturday morning cartoon, Turbo Kid features some of the most innovative deaths in recent memory, with a scene involving a modified bicycle contraption that yanks a guy’s intestines out, being just the tip of the iceberg in this blood soaked joyride; gore hounds will surly delight in what’s on offer here. Alas, while the SFX are terrific, the overall action is a little patchy and comes off as second rate as it’s lacking the energy that’s needed to elevate itself above other throwback pictures, with first time directors Anouk Whissell, François Simard and Yoann-Karl Whissell failing to capture the liveliness and vigor that a more seasoned filmmaker may have encapsulated. Jean-Philippe Bernier’s cinematography doesn’t help proceedings either as he opts for a modern, clean look opposed to VHS grain used by similar titles. Nonetheless, one can be somewhat forgiving, as it’s extremely easy to get behind a film about a kid who gets to live out his childhood dream while saving lives in the process.
The acting is pretty silly too with the enthusiastic cast breathing life into their one-dimensional roles. Munro Chambers, Degrassi: The Next Generation (2001), does a solid job as our protagonist, who’s known only as ‘The Kid,’ exhibiting traits that make his young wide-eyed romance believable whilst convincingly bringing the red-suited Turbo Kid to life. His perky, pink-haired crush, Apple, however doesn’t fare quite as well. Despite the fact that Laurence Lebeouf, The Little Queen (2014), does a credible job with her character, the jumpsuit wearing Apple is considerably annoying when we first meet her and it appears as though she’ll quickly out stay her welcome; but thankfully, Lebeouf rises above the material she’s given and brings a likability and playfulness to the spirited heroine. Parodying some of his most iconic roles, Michael Ironside, Total Recall (1990), chews up the scenery as the tacky villain, Zeus, while Edwin Wright, Slow West (2015), does an admirable job as Zeus’ voiceless, buzzsaw-handed sidekick, Skeletron. Finally, Aussie viewers might recognize New Zealand actor Aaron Jeffery, who played Alex Ryan in television’s McLeod’s Daughters (2001), clearly having a blast as the foul-mouthed champion, Frederic.
A love letter to low rent 80’s schlock, sci-fi action films and splatter cinema, the New Zealand/Canada co-production Turbo Kid is a moderately amusing ride that’s unfortunately weighed down by some weak direction, a handful of dull moments and several jokes that fail to hit their mark. Moreover, running for a hefty 93 minutes, this feature doesn’t really rise above or beyond its original 5 minute short, which ultimately begs the question, was this venture really necessary? Whatever the answer, Turbo Kid certainly makes for some juvenile, after dark glee.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Turbo Kid is released through Epic Pictures Group