2015 - 93 minutes
Directed by: Anouk Whissell, Francois Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissel
Written by: Anouk Whissell, Francois Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissel
Starring: Munro Chambers, Laurence Lebeouf, Aaron Jeffery, Edwin Wright, Romano Orzari, Michael Ironside
Turbo Kid is honest in its homage to 1980s VHS schlock, and it’s earnestly shot and performed. That energy only carries the film so far, however, with the momentum from bloody combat and nods to adventure movie tropes getting overtaken by monotony. Filmmaking collective RKSS (François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell) expand on their short film T is for Turbo here, and the strain of an extended run time is felt.So much of the ‘80s nostalgia is done right, it’s just the same thing being done over and over again.
In a post-apocalyptic 1997, “The Kid” (Munro Chambers) scavenges the acid rain-washed wasteland on his BMX bike. One day while foraging he meets Apple (Laurence Laboeuf), a wacky, pink-haired, clear-blue-eyed girl who’s overjoyed to meet another live soul. Eventually warming to his high-spirited companion, The Kid and Apple are pulled into a conflict with Zeus (Michael Ironside), a warlord who controls the territory. Buoyed by the discovery of a powerful weapon and suit belonging to his comic book hero, Turbo Rider, The Kid pedals into battle.
The intentions of Turbo Kid are clear from the opening moments. The final (of several) production logos resembles the old Cannon Films graphic, an opening, overly serious voiceover plays like an ‘80s-era movie trailer, and the song during the opening credits is dripping with cheese. The reverence is obvious without being too on-the-nose or overtly jokey. Sure, a guy dressed like Indiana Jones arm wrestles a guy dressed like Mola Ram from Temple of Doom, but in this retro-future world culture stopped with the acid rain of the mid-‘80s, so these are the last pop culture references that exist.
Once the battle between The Kid and Zeus becomes the focus, genre service switches to an emphasis on violence and over-the-top gore. There are plenty of severed heads and limbs that provide opportunities for fountains of blood. The carnage and practical effects tap into the excesses of its influences, but Turbo Kid becomes a bit too much of a good, fun thing. The film also relies a bit too much on the bloodshed to provide the comedy, instead of more sharply constructed laughs.
Zeus’ right-hand man, Skeletron (Edwin Wright), whose metallic skull mask and shoulder pads make him look like a cross between a Mad Max and Power Rangers baddie, has a cool arm-mounted circular saw weapon; though there are only so many angles you can slice into people before the action becomes a bit repetitive. He does shoot the sawblades a couple times, which is cool, as is his method of torture that involves an old exercise bike. More invention to the viscera, as in that scene, would’ve served the film well.
Also growing tedious are the banal conversations between The Kid and Apple, a few of their cutesy talks taking place on a playground, in The Kid’s underground bunker, by a campfire (fed cleverly by old VHS tapes), and next to a lake of acid rain. The duo is also separated multiple times only to be reunited. It’s an ode to the forced saccharine of past films of this ilk, though the choppy nature of their relationship grows more irritating than sweet. Chambers and Laboeuf are appealing and dialed-back just enough so the characters don’t become completely annoying. Naturally, the standout is Michael Ironside, who does a pretty good Michael Ironside here.
To its credit, Turbo Kid never devolves into winking satire. It just never really evolves into anything, either. Yes, the point is excess and genre reverence, yet despite a crazy climax, the insanity and inanity grow a bit numbing instead of cheerful. The overload of overkill destroys some of the excitement.