Turbo Kid is fun, gory, endearing, and features gratuitous Michael Ironside, but it never quite manages to be quite as good as its premise suggests, while still being a satisfying burst of nostalgia and guts. Frankly it reads like it’s been designed specifically to appeal to readers and writers of Den of Geek – and it will – but by sounding like the best film ever made it gives itself a lot to live up to. If I summarise it, you’ll see what I mean.
In a post-apocalyptic 1997 (yes) a young scavenger – The Kid (Munro Chambers) – lives alone in a bunker full of Eighties toys (yes), and barters his findings for fresh-ish water. In this world there’s little fuel, so most people ride bikes to get around. This means that there are sections that resemble the ‘Apes of Wrath’ episode of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (yes). The Kid also has a fondness for Seventies’ style comics featuring ‘Turbo Man’ where the hero fights against robot invaders (yes), and cycles around carrying a hand-drawn map and home-made defensive weapons (yes). He ends up fighting Zeus (Michael Ironside, obviously yes), who rules this area of the wastelands.
It’s set up a bit like one of those children’s dramas I remember watching in primary school: Through The Dragon’s Eye, Badger Girl or Geordie Racer. There’s a couple of kids fighting against a cruel adult, with a sympathetic grown-up helping them out. Even the film stock looks like it’s come out of the late 80s or early 90s, complete with lo-fi retro special effects (yes) and synthscapes (yes).
It’s also full of ludicrous splatter and gore, like an early Peter Jackson movie (yes) and Zeus has a henchman dressed up like something out of Mad Max who has a circular saw gun for a hand (yes). The Kid is assisted by Apple (Laurence Lebeouf, who manages to stay on the right side of kooky) and Frederic the arm wrestler (Aaron Jeffery, who you may remember playing Wolverine’s Dad in X-Men Origins: Wolverine).
Michael Ironside, as the villain of the piece, could play this sort of role in his sleep, and here he manages to exude a charismatic menace while also giving the impression of not actually trying that hard. This works for Zeus, who’s something of a louche sadist anyway, preferring to let his henchman (Edwin Wright, recently seen in Tatau but here hidden behind a mask and near mute) inflict actual pain and death on his victims. This results in a memorable sequence involving a bike and the rudimentary application of physics, but the person who looks most at home amidst the carnage is Aaron Jeffery, who is clearly having tremendous fun swearing and shooting at people. One of his kills is impossibly to do justice to with mere words, but basically he takes a thing off a thing and puts it on another part of the thing, although now I feel like I’ve oversold it.
So, it’s a violent mix of George Miller and a BBC Look And Read production. What could possibly go wrong?
In a similar way to Shoot ‘Em Up, the film is at its best when indulging in gleefully over the top violence and undermining any momentarily serious bits.
Writer/Directors François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell pop up in small roles (Simard, in particular, gets a memorably violent cameo) and maintain a sense of humour throughout the fight sequences, as if they’d watched Monty Python And The Holy Grail and thought the Black Knight scene was a bit tame.
When the film goes back to the relationship between The Kid and Apple, it’s okay, but it lacks the tongue-in-cheek enthusiasm of the rest of the movie. Like Shoot ‘Em Up trying to crowbar and actual plot in between the gunfights, Turbo Kid manages a superior and sweet romance subplot (Lebouef doing really well with a potentially annoying character), but this throws the film off-balance slightly. The mix of all the ingredients doesn’t quite gel, and bluntly it’s much more fun whenever things get violent, and Zeus’ henchman turns up with some redshirts, and The Kid finds an artefact surely inspired by a failed Nintendo product.
There are also a few ideas that seem to have had their explanation cut in the edit, and the novelty wears off quite quickly for a few concepts (although that might just be my inability to take the bike riding sequences seriously after Garth Marenghi). The plot is comprised of a lot of ‘And then this happened’ beats, which the film only gets away with because it’s set out its stall for being irreverent quite early on.
Overall, though, Turbo Kid ticks a lot of nostalgia boxes, and seems like the kind of film that could gain a hugely passionate cult following. It deserves it.
Turbo Kid is available on DVD now.
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