The 2015 science fiction film Turbo Kid is a Canadian/New Zealand production with a 1980s feel that features some over the top blood-spilling a’la Takashi Miike. In terms of gore and fountains of blood, this tri-directed film looks and sounds like a cross between Night of the Comet, The Last Starfighter and Ichi the Killer. With a stripped down means of transportation by all of the film’s characters; BMX bikes, and one big name star, and oh what a name, in Michael Ironside who brings his iconic status to the film, this action adventure sci fi offering entertains to the nth degree.
Starring Canadian actor Munro Chambers (Riftworld Chronicles, Degrassi: The Next Generation), Laurence Leboeuf (19-2, Trauma), New Zealand actor Aaron Jeffery (Neighbours, Wentworth Prison) and, of course, Ironside as the movie’s big bad “Zeus,” this non-motorized and teenaged version of a Mad Max apocalyptic wasteland where “the water is people,” is great fun to watch.
Chambers, as the lad whose parents are murdered by Zeus when he was a small shaver, is endearing as the teen who worships superhero Turbo Man. Leboeuf is delightfully quirky and strangely bird-like as his female companion, who turns out to have a secret. Jeffery is brilliant in the smaller role of mentor and arm wrestling champion who gives his right arm to beat Ironside’s malevolent despot.
Once one gets past the fact that everyone rides bicycles in this acid rain destroyed world, the plot becomes easy to follow and an addictive viewing experience. The flashbacks are well placed and amazingly, despite having three directors, the movie flows well with a no confusion as to time lines or editing mess-ups.
For the record, Turbo Kid was written and directed by: François Simard, Anouk Whissell (who also played the kid’s mother in the flashback sequences) and Yoann-Karl Whissell. All did extremely well in bringing this family affair of a film to screen; Anouk is married to Simard and Yoann-Karl is Whissell’s brother.
The music for the film is a 1980s synth mixture that is so evocative of Night of the Comet or just about any other teen film from that era, whether it be science fiction or horror. The look of the movie is pure 80s and the film’s premise that all this apocalyptic action takes place in the “future” of 1997, is priceless.
Somewhat akin to Ti West’s The House of the Devil, the family directed Turbo Kid is retro to the nth degree. (At one point the Apple and TK burn VHS tapes to keep warm.) The FX, with the exception of the freshets of blood that shoot several feet into the air and look to be escaping from a Takashi Miike horror film, all look like the practical “slightly hokey” FX from 30 years ago.
That said, the intestine bike scene, the decapitations, et al, all work brilliantly. Blood spilling aside, there are a number of homages, or nods and winks, to other films that also entertain mightily.
Apple teaching “superhero” Turbo Kid how to fight is an enthusiastic remodeling of Miss Congeniality‘s SING, but changed to “Eyes, Throat, and Genitals.” Amusingly done and the bird-like enthusiasm of Ms. Leboeuf is contagiously funny.
Sidenote: It took quite a long while to warm to “Apple” as a character. In the film, “The Kid” is rather perturbed and a little frightened by this odd looking and acting creature. With her pale coloring, blonde hair and vivid blue eyes which were constantly opened to the widest extent possible, the girl is overpowering. Her rapid darting about gave her the appearance of a pale bird about to have a fit yet all this came together to eventually make the character rather lovable.
The story has “The Kid” scavenging for things to sell a local trader, Bagu (Romano Orzari) who throws in the occasional “Turbo Man” comic book to sweeten the deal. Zeus (Ironside) rules the countryside with an iron fist, via his henchmen and right-hand man Skeletron (Edwin Wright), who has a metal left arm that shoots circular saw blades and Frederick, a very manly man who is arm wrestling champion of this world who takes on Zeus to avenge the death of his brother.
All of these characters end up in a free-for-all fight where the Turbo Kid will learn whether he really is a superhero or not.
Like most good action/adventure science fiction, Turbo Kid is, essentially, a western where horses have been replaced with bikes and the characters do not shoot guns, except for one, and instead fight with garden gnomes on a stick, a turbo blaster or whatever weapons can be fashioned by the waste of this world and a saw blade shooting arm.
At first glance this film looks a little cheesy. It screams small budget (One gets the feeling that BMX bikes were used to get some much needed sponsorship money.) where it seems that all the production costs may have gone to procuring Ironside. Then, the first fight scene showers gallons of blood all over the protagonists and some pretty gruesome FX show that a fair amount of money must have been spent on these J-Horror type practical gags.
Turbo Kid is a cracking film. From the synth heavy score, co-produced by cinematographer Jean-Philippe Bernier,Jean-Nicolas Leupi and Le Matos to the performances by all the actors, to the look of the film. Everything works.
This is a 4.5 out of 5 star film that keeps the viewer wrapped up in the story and the action. Streaming on Netflix at the moment this one is well worth the 93 minutes it takes to watch. Check it out…