Starring Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Edwin Wright
Directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
It’s the future – but not as you know it.
Well, okay, maybe it is as you know it if you grew up relishing the swathe of Italian rip-offs of The Road Warrior that populated video store shelves throughout the 80s.
And if you did, you’re in for one hell of a treat with Turbo Kid.
It’s 1997 and the apocalypse has been and gone. Clean drinking water is a valuable commodity, and humanity is reduced to roving groups of bandits, traders and solitary survivors. The primary mode of transport between the colonies and outposts dotting the wasteland is BMX.
Living alone in his nostalgia-filled bunker underneath a playground is The Kid (Chambers) – a comics-obsessed orphan who wishes for nothing more than to be left in peace. Unfortunately for him, this changes when he comes across the friendly, but utterly manic Apple (an absolutely delightful Laurence Leboeuf).
Refusing to leave The Kid’s side, the unwaveringly positive Apple accompanies him across the wasteland, ultimately drawing the attention of evil gang leader Zeus (Ironside) and his cronies – including the saw blade-armed Skeletron (Wright). See, Zeus has devised a machine that can extract clean water from the human body… and he needs a constant supply of raw materials to keep his people happy.
In a stroke of luck, The Kid comes across the body of the real-life superhero who inspired his favourite comic book – Turbo Rider – and must take up the mantle, donning the gear and advanced weaponry of his hero in order to take the fight to the ruthless Zeus.
Adapted to feature length from an unselected entry into ABCs of Death (entitled T Is for Turbo), Turbo Kid is an unapologetically riotous throwback to cheap 80s video fare. Opening with a gorgonzola-cheesy rock ballad over the title credits, and the customary wireframe distributor graphics (“The #1 in Laserdisc Sales!”) the soundtrack and visuals immediately inform on exactly where directors Simard, Whissell and Whissell are coming from with their approach to the flick.
It’s homage, pastiche, reverence and everything in between – rarely meant to be taken seriously and lacking the more off-putting mean spirit of similar product such as Hobo with a Shotgun. Fun is the word of the day here, and every single cast member seems to having as much of that as they possibly could. Ironside is smarmy and evil, doing his bad guy thing like only he can, while Munro’s zero-to-hero arc is effortlessly shouldered. The standout performance, however, is Laurence Leboeuf, whose zany behaviour, snappy line delivery and manic, wide-eyed smile never fail to light up the screen. It’s the interaction between her and The Kid that forms the real core of the story and reveals the magic that makes it all so thoroughly enjoyable – a big, fat dose of heart.
For the splatter fans, there’s also gore-a-plenty with tons of side-splitting gags as people are sawed, dismembered and exploded in all manner of gruesome ways – but always with a twinkle in the eye and a sense of playful nonchalance.
Turbo Kid is, simply put, a total blast from start to finish. Rather than just making a film and slapping some degraded visual filter on it to pass it off as a “Grindhouse” throwback, our directing trio know exactly what they’re doing and have dished up something with much, much more to offer than a mere throwback concept. It’s a tale of unlikely friendship, love, camaraderie, bravery and the rise of the underdog. It’s everything we used to love about Saturday night VHS rentals.
Funny, gory, hugely enjoyable and – most importantly – shining with spirit, Turbo Kid is a wild success. Everyone involved should be thoroughly proud of themselves.