Epic Pictures Releasing
Imagine, if you can, the future. Not just any future, but a post-apocalyptic future with an earth scarred by acid rain and humanity decimated by war. A future where desperate people are forced to fight for survival while those in power do nothing but sit back and grow more powerful. Imagine, if you can, 1997.
The Kid (Munro Chambers) wanders the wasteland on his BMX bike scavenging for supplies and materials he can trade. It’s an inhospitable place, but a chance meeting with an odd young woman named Apple (Laurence Leboeuf) finds him caring about another person for the first time since his parents were murdered years prior. Their killer, Zeus (Michael Ironside), still rules the land through fear and punishment, and when Kid and Apple cross paths with him the dry earth is destined to be drenched with epic amounts of blood.
The post-apocalyptic action/adventure genre can generally be summed up in two categories – Mad Max films and Mad Max ripoffs. There are exceptions of course, but the basic structure of a tough loner facing off against a cruel tyrant to help out a gaggle of the downtrodden became something of a template after the first two films in George Miller’s quadrilogy wowed audiences over three decades ago. The immensely entertaining and highly energetic Turbo Kid is almost guaranteed to appeal to fans of Miller’s films and the copycats as it presents an exciting, ridiculous and playful nod to a time gone by. It’s not brought to us by “Epic Pictures, the #1 leader in LaserDisc sales” for nothing.
Co-writers/directors François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell show a clear affection for the genre, but this isn’t a spoof that pokes fun at cheap and cheesy classics like The New Barbarians or the Patrick Swayze flick Steel Dawn. Their love for these films is clear, but they bring a rarity to the concept in that they also care about their characters.
There’s a sweetness here amid the decapitations, disembowelings and general unpleasantness committed by Zeus and his mask-wearing, bike-riding cronies, and it comes through in the script as well as the two lead performances. Chambers is the “aww shucks” teen who’s always wanted to be the hero and now stands a chance thanks to a fancy laser-firing power glove, and Leboeuf delights as the effervescent blond with a definite screw loose. They find strength in each other, something that comes in handy when they’re forced to separate bad guys from their internal organs, and the film balances that friendship with some deliriously kinetic splatter.
Think Sam Raimi tackling a YA adaptation (or even a Dead Alive-era Peter Jackson) and you’ll have an idea what kind of biological hijinks the film has up its soon to be bloodied sleeve. Limbs are lopped, torsos are torn, and an exercise bike is put to hilariously grim use, and the hoses spraying the red stuff are all turned to full blast.
The film’s propulsive Casio-like score works well to keep the energy up, but there a few scenes that seem to drag unnecessarily. Pacing is an issue early on in particular with lulls that feel a bit aimless, but that’s not to say it’s ever dull. Turbo Kid is most definitely never dull. It is slight though – a product of both its slim story and the aforementioned sweetness. Production design and costuming give the appearance of Road Warrior on a budget, but they work beautifully to capture a nostalgic feel that leaves viewers recalling toys, objects and memories of late nights spent watching shirtless heroes and scarred villains battle over land rights issues in a world gone mad (and thirsty).
Fans of ’80s genre cinema will find much to love, but the film’s warm heart and goofy sense of humor should broaden that audience even further. Friendship and entrails go hand in hand here – sometimes quite literally – making Turbo Kid a film destined to find new fans for years to come. Who knows, maybe it will even be considered a cult classic by 1997.
The Upside: Loving callback to ’80s post-apocalyptic cinema; killer practical gore effects; some surprising heart
The Downside: Some drag early on; goes to same specific Apple well two time too many