Turbo Kid (2015), directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell.
Written by François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell.
Starring Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf and Michael Ironside.
Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com
Buy on DVD from Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com
In preparation [for this review], I decided to watch the post-apocalyptic, 80s referencing film, Turbo Kid for the fourth time. It occurred to me that this particular film not only lends itself well to repeated viewings, but it’s also highly likely that most ‘Attackers’ will want to do exactly that. I’m not a huge fan of owning films because I’ve literally run out of room to store them but once again it’s highly likely that my fellow ‘Attackers’ are going to want to own this gem of a B-movie. Fortunately, it’s available for download, which only occupies digital space.
Which begs the question; is Turbo Kid really a B-movie? Can a film be considered that grade if it’s an intentional and very aware homage? Or must it be classified something else? That’s one of those questions that’s like a snake eating its’ own tail; round and round it goes, until your neck gets whiplash and you hurl your dinner.
Ah, but it does the homage thing so very, very well…literally to a level that it exceeds the films that inspired it, sort of like a beautiful painting of a selfie. What’s additionally amazing is that the makers of Turbo Kid are clearly aware of what they’re doing and so lovingly craft every scene that there must have been a degree of agony involved in the production. Would they get it right? Could they get it right?
They did and boy howdy, did they ever.
The opening scene introduces us to our main character Turbo Kid, played by Munro Chambers (in his first starring role in a movie), who hasn’t become his namesake quite yet. He lives a solitary and lonely, yet seemingly fulfilling life in The Wasteland. Riding around on his BMX bicycle, he scavenges objects to trade for water (the commodity) while lying low to avoid attention from psychotic marauders.
During one of his runs, he comes across a pretty, perky but clearly off-kilter young woman named Apple, played by Laurence Leboeuf, who latches onto him like a leech. She’s really more of a liability than a positive presence; she doesn’t seem to understand how this world works. Lebeoef’s performance is outstanding and she may be one to watch in the future, should she choose to pick similar projects.
The highly enjoyable plot jumps off from there, full of fun twists and turns. Some are completely predictable and reference the movies that Turbo Kid so lovingly recalls, but there’s also enough oomph in the script to keep it fun.
Turbo Kid was originally a short film titled T Is for Turbo before it was turned into a feature length movie, which allowed the makers to flesh out the characters and come up with a heftier structure for the storyline. This was a very good thing because it obviously allowed them the time and space to really make it all coalesce and congeal.
There’s always a bad guy and these are modern times, so the protagonist has to be despicably awful. We can’t have a villain who’s just trying to get by, now can we. How the creators of Turbo Kid scored a performance by the legendary Michael Ironside as Zuess is beyond me. An actor in many notable B-movies like Neon City, Scanners, Starship Troopers, Watchers, The Vagrant and Total Recall, among many others, Ironside knocks it out of the park with his Lord Humungus-like character.
The supporting cast mainly consists of enjoyably one-dimensional psychos. Kill! Kill! Kill! That’s what these folks are all about. But that’s okay; once again, this works perfectly in The Wasteland. For example, Zuess’s right-hand man is named Skeletron, who never removes his trademark iron mask or circular saw-firing gauntlet. He doesn’t have anything to say, but he’d love to carve you up.
If you don’t get as much of a kick out of Edwin Wright’s portrayal as I did, you need to lay off the diazepam. He’s so much fun that you’ll end up cheering for him even though he’s a giggling nut job who likes to hurt people for little to no reason. Wright plays him to the hilt.
There’s even a Han Solo-like character named Frederic that comes into the Turbo Kid’s life at opportune times, played by Aaron Jefferey. He gets some really great lines and yet the character isn’t painfully and unrealistically competent, as is too often the case with characters like his. They’re full of witty wisecracks and bullets never hit them. That’s boring, stale and we’ve seen that too often; welcome to The Wasteland!
The entire cast does a superb job. As previously stated, this film exceeds the quality of the films it pays homage to and if there’s ever a better example of that it’s in the precision and professionalism of the acting.
Despite a tiny, miniscule budget (I was unable to ascertain the exact figure), the production quality is top notch. Truly, I’m not just saying that; it’s a miracle unto itself. The visuals, editing and directing are just as superb as the rest of the film. How they pulled it all off is beyond me. It’s possible they sold their souls to the devil. Yeah, that must be it.
And no good movie of its ilk, or any ilk for that matter, can be as great without a soundtrack that is so epic that it becomes another member of the cast. Similar to Daft Punk’s sonic creations for Tron: Legacy, French-Canadian musicians Le Matos crafted dense, synth-soaked rhythms and audio textures that recall the great electronic beats and pulsations of 80s action sci-fi and horror films. If you’ve been enjoying the resurging interest in this sort of music lately, then the Turbo Kid OST is a mandatory and guaranteed purchase. It also incorporates some great lines from the film, which is a bonus. Their album “Join Us” is also highly recommended.
Turbo Kid is intentionally excessively gory in a comical way, somewhat similar to today’s grindhouse movement; Dead Alive level bloodshed, for example. Of course, this cinematic element really owes its genesis to the chambara genre but many enthusiasts may or may not have yet had a chance to really discover that world of movie wonderment and that’s just fine. But be prepared for buckets of blood; there’s a scene that hilariously addresses the barrels of flying hemoglobin that’s not to be missed. In fact, there are several scenes. The gore sometimes wanders into Monty Python-esque territory, also to enjoyably great effect. It’s all so over the top that it’s impossible not to laugh…nervously.
Where the grindhouse feel really came into play for me was a ludicrously absurd torture scene that involved a stationary bicycle. Have you ever passed by an exercise gym where people are riding those devices of boredom? Or maybe you find yourself on one all too often. Regardless, after viewing Turbo Kid, I challenge you not to see someone on one, recall the scene from the movie and not chortle as you pass by. Impossible!
The official website is probably the best way to watch this instant cult classic. Hopefully, the proceeds from the offered On Demand rental go directly back to the filmmakers to fund future projects. If I have one complaint about the site, it’s that they don’t sell t-shirts. Wearing one would be a privilege. They offered them via their Indiegogo campaign years ago, so surely they could again.
Unlike blockbusters like Mad Max: Fury Road, Turbo Kid needs all the marketing help it can get. Enthusiasts like me need to spread the word and support past, present and future efforts like this. I hope that creators Francois Simard and Anouk Whissell are able to parlay any success they have with this film into similarly enjoyable and remarkable artistic expressions. Don’t miss their short film, Ninja Eliminator 4: The French Connection, which was released after Turbo Kid. Great things are ahead for these folks!
Inevitably, Turbo Kid encourages discussion of which films it pays homage to. It reminded me of A Boy and His Dog, BMX Bandits, Rad, The Omega Man, Night of the Comet, Mad Max and Spice World (okay, maybe not that last one) and I’m sure there will be others that you’ll come up with. What’s remarkable is that Turbo Kid is as good, or even better than many of those movies.
Frederic: Where you gonna go?
The Kid: To see what the rest of the wasteland looks like.
Frederic: Well there’s not much to see there, kid.
The Kid: I know.
Did I mention that I loved this movie? So will you. If you haven’t seen it yet, hop on your BMX post-haste and ride across The Wasteland to see it. And if you’ve already done so, it’s time to pop it into the Betamax player (or fire up the media player on your computer) and see it again!
Tell them Mr. Gnome sent you.