In amongst the sci-fi blockbusters of 2015 Turbo Kid, a genuine grass-roots triumph, appeared. Premiering at Sundance in January it spent the year doing the festival circuit (I saw it at FrightFest in August) building word-of-mouth.
Set in a post-apocalyptic 1997 the movie follows the adventures of The Kid as he navigates survival in the Wasteland. Water is a scarce commodity that The Kid buys by scavenging. The Kid’s other key survival items are his trusty hammer, 80s music tapes and comic books, particularly those of Turbo Rider a power suit wearing super-hero.
The Wastelands are ruled by Zeus, a one eyed tyrant who controls the water source, and his enforcer Skeletron. The other big character in the Wasteland and something of a rival to Zeus is Frederick the Arm-wrestler, a cowboy who arm-wrestles opponents over a red hot brand ensuring the losers never forget. Rounding out the cast is Apple, an innocent and enthusiastic girl The Kid meets while out scavenging one day.
Part of a burgeoning sub-genre of modern movies made to look like they were made in the Eighties (see also Hobo With A Shotgun and The Guest) the pastiche could prove annoying but Turbo Kid is made with such heart that it never does. All of the relevant sub-Mad Max tropes and story bits are hit but it never feels formulaic. This is largely due to game performances from the cast (including a gloriously over-the-top turn by Michael Ironside as Zeus) who imbue their characters with real emotion.
It’s also funny in the right way. It could easily have pointed at the ridiculousness of Eighties film making and left it there but it teases out genuine humour from its characters and premise. In the climactic fight there is a wonderfully gory visual joke as bad guys explode. All of the characters also ride bikes (there’s no petrol) and some of the scenes with a pack of nasty thugs peddling for all their worth are hilarious. But again the movie doesn’t just leave it there. Another scene in which the Kid rides for his life from Skeletron is genuinely suspenseful and what starts off as amusing soon becomes tense.
On paper it shouldn’t work and it’s a testament to all involved that it not only does but rises above its source material. It has bikes, and lazers and love and gore. All of the good things about Eighties movies without some of the bad things (no casual misogyny!). Touching, funny and fist-pumpingly good, Turbo Kid fully deserves the wider audience it’s garnering.
Directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Starring Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Edwin Wright, Aaron Jeffery, Romano Orzari
Available on DVD, BluRay and VOD.
GS Blogger: Bobby Diabolus