Impulse Buy Theater - Turbo Kid
What if the Power Glove for the old Nintendo Entertainment System was as cool as your young imagination had hoped? Now, mix that thought with an 80’s BMX movie and stir in some post-apocalypse…put it in the oven and bake it…and no, I’m not encouraging you to watch this while high, I’m using a metaphor…although… [Sigh…really? Just because you live in a state where the stuff’s legal… - Ed.] Anyway, this mix will give you some idea as to what you can expect from Turbo Kid, a fantastic Canadian film shot mainly in Quebec that’s so awesome that you’ll forgive French-Canadians for being…well…French-Canadians. [Well, that wasn’t completely dick-ish. – Ed.]
Wired.com calls it “Mad Max on a BMX”. Fuck you Wired. [We hate that sort of thing here. – Ed.] Yes, it takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Yes, Skeletron does invoke the Mad Max aesthetic. But did Mad Max have robots? How about laser weapons? No? Then sit down and shut up. Okay, I got that out of my system. So about the movie itself…well, we start off with our titular Kid, not quite Turbo-ed up just yet. He scavenges for scrap and trinkets so that he can trade them for water and comics of his hero, Turbo Rider. The monotony of his life is broken up when he meets Apple, an incredibly hyper-active girl that will just not leave him alone…and from here, our path to adventure begins. The main conflict of the movie comes from Zeus, played by Michael Ironside in usual Michael Ironside fashion [And now would be a good time to point out that we’re big fans… - Ed.], as a would-be despot that seeks to rule the wastes by controlling both the water and a large number of goons. Chief amongst his goons is the aforementioned Skeletron, a skull-masked, bushy-haired mute with football shoulder pads (again, very much a nod to the Mad Max aesthetic)…who proves to be the Kid’s nemesis throughout the film. Since we’re covering aforementioned bases, it’s by entering into Zeus’ territory that the kid comes upon the wrecked ship of his hero to find his equipment…including the vaunted Turbo Glove which, when charged, turns whoever it’s aimed at into a pile of blood and guts. You know, everything your imagination wished for when you slipped on the Power Glove…in that 5 minutes just before you realized that it was…well…less than good. Thusly armed, the struggle begins anew. Will the Kid rescue Apple and wrest control of the water source from Zeus and his band of thugs? Well, you’ll just have to watch to find out! [Translation – Yes, he does, but dammit we’re not going to tell you everything! – Ed.]
In its totality, the film is a wonderful ride and has anything you could ask for. On the surface, sure, it works and works fantastically as both an homage and a send up of 80s BMX movies. In fact, this movie gives you its 80’s credentials right up front, opening with goddamn Stan Bush. Yeah, you know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout! And it doesn’t let up from there…the entire soundtrack is a synth-driven joy. As we get into this film’s version of The Cantina Scene [If we have to spell it out any more than that, you’re on the wrong website. – Ed.], sharp-eyed and not so sharp-eyed viewers should at least catch the references to Indiana Jones and Mola Ram…and looking over to the bar you’re likely to see one of the three storms from Big Trouble in Little China…my guess would be Lightning. And…oh my god…the View Master!
As always, the thing that makes or breaks stories and films like this are the performers. Like I said above, Michael Ironside is really the only known quantity going into this. The rest of the cast proves to be just as spectacular. Munro Chambers does a wonderful job showing the transition of the Kid from lone survivalist to kid with a crush to young hero. Laurence Leboeuf plays Apple in a really interesting way…almost heightening how the Kid sees her and conveying that to the viewer…and it’s something you really don’t notice…almost subliminal. She starts off as hyper-active and, well, for lack of a better term, annoying. But as the Kid warms up to her…so do you…and you can see that in her performance as it gently becomes a bit more subdued…yet never loses that initial exuberance that is at the character’s core. While he never speaks a word, Edwin Wright’s Skeletron is a menacing presence and is one of those villains that’s a joy to hate. Our last shout out goes to Aaron Jeffery’s Frederic, who initially is our Indiana Jones reference during The Cantina Scene but allows his character to grow into almost a father-figure to the Kid…and I really want to emphasize almost…as he fits perfectly into that cinematic brotherhood of loners. [Yeah…how EXACTLY do you have a brotherhood of loners? – Ed.] Okay, fair point…but it’s through him that I learned that my personal space extends to a full arm’s length away from me. I plan on making use of that.
But there’s also some depth here beyond its overwhelming 80’s-ness. For me, it took a second and third viewing to really start seeing the depth to the film. Don’t get me wrong, the surface story of boy meets girl, girl gets kidnapped, boy rescues girl all with the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic wasteland works extremely well. But with a keen eye and ear, you can learn how things got to be this way, what the role of the Turbo Rider comic really was and who the Turbo Rider really was gives everything that is seemingly so simple a depth that almost turns it into a brand new movie. Suddenly our Kid who’s on a variant of the classic Hero’s Journey is now the embodiment of overcoming past prejudices and a fresh start for humanity…a blank slate rising from the ashes of the old civilization. Bet you weren’t expecting something like that in a movie called “Turbo Kid”, now were you?
You know, I almost want to spend an entire paragraph on the blood and gore effects in this movie…there’s just THAT much of it. Is it gratuitous? Maybe. Is it fun? Hell yeah! Everyone in this post-apocalypse has REALLY high blood pressure too. But that’s just it, perhaps the theme of this paragraph should simply be the outright fun nature of the film. Sure, if you watch the film a couple of times, you’ll get more out of it…but even if you only watch it once, you’re gonna have a blast. And that’s really due to the style and pacing of the three-headed directorial beast that is RKSS. Filling roles of both writers and directors, this movie is the baby of François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell...and you can tell. Michael Ironside said it best in an interview regarding the film: “I didn’t want to do it unless I knew that they were prepared to go all the way.” Boy, did they ever. The movie really is like the best 80s funhouse experience you could ever hope for, it’s a fun roller coaster, there’s a tunnel of love and there’s a haunted house…okay, it’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland with a lot of gore…that seems like a good stand in for a haunted house.
Look…track this movie down. It’s on Netflix at the time of this writing and if you have even the slightest love for anything 80s, BMX bikes, gore/phenomenal blood-spray or just damn fun movies, you need to watch this. Even better? Support these filmmakers and buy a copy…because I don’t know about you, but I want to know just what else they’ve got in that collective brain of theirs. After Turbo Kid, I’m not afraid to say that whatever it is, I can guarantee that it’ll be awesome.
I’ll tell you right now, if you don’t love Turbo Kid, check your pulse, you may in fact be dead. Or an asshole. In which case…you have an appointment with my GNOMESTICK!!!