Movie Review: ‘Turbo Kid’
Turbo Kid is so gloriously 80s that had it been made in the 80s it would’ve been ignored, as it stands it was made 30 years later and works as a nostalgic throwback to a time where gore and ridiculousness weren’t discourage but actively welcomed and as a result it makes for a f*cking fun movie.
Set in the post-apocalyptic future of 1997, the film shows us a world filled with grey deserts and poisonous water, as the last remnants of humanity struggle to survive while continually seeking out that last source of clean water, a lonely teenager known only as The Kid makes his way through the world by selling whatever important scrap he can find, all the while trying to emulate his hero, a comic-book creation called Turbo Rider. By chance The Kid has an encounter with Apple, an overly chirpy but endearing innocent young woman who takes to being his friend based on nothing but the fact that he’s the first person she sees, while The Kid is cautious he quickly comes to like Apple and her simple view of the world.
Elsewhere, ruthless kingpin Zeus is in the middle of a war with rough and tough cowboy, Frederic. As the two of them start to come to a head The Kid and Apple inadvertently end up in the middle, during an escape attempt The Kid comes across a crashed ship which he finds out belongs to the real Turbo Rider, now long dead. Suiting himself in the Turbo Rider’s cloths and Turbo Glove weapon, The Kid sets out on his own mission to save Apple and uncover her own past, all the while Zeus and his murderous gang are on their tale.
The plot’s a little all over the place at times but it’s never overly difficult to understand, nor is it of any importance, it gets the characters from A to B to C but overall it’s just window dressing for an otherwise simple and enjoyable film, there’s some back-story with The Kid and Apple but neither of them takes up too much time.
The characters were a big reason why the film worked so well, everyone involved was game for the madness and embraced it wholly and without irony. There was some fun supporting characters including Bagu, an unlucky trader who got too involved with The Kid’s mission and Skeletron, Zeus’ silent and violent right hand man complete with metallic skull mask and a saw-disc launcher on his arm. The biggest support came from Frederic, the Clint Eastwood of the wasteland, he travelled the ruins arm-wrestling his way into fame and glory, however his war with Zeus took a toll, a toll which just got worse as the film went on yet seemingly never manages to actually kill the bastard. Frederic feels like he should’ve been the real hero of the film had The Kid not come into play, it’s a funny role which requires the cowboy to fully embrace the clichés of the ‘Hero’ role and for most of those clichés to backfire in his face.
Michael Ironside played the one-eyed villain Zeus and he’s a great addition to the film, he makes Zeus out to be a ruthless megalomaniac who honestly believed that his master-plan to provide water to the survivors was the best idea. In reality he was a cruel, vicious and mean-spirited bastard who would often torture people just because he was disappointed in how easily they caved. Ironside sells the bastardry of Zeus and the fact that he’s up for some pretty ridiculous things near the end of the film makes for a much more fun villain to really hate, especially when the truth of his missing eye comes into play.
Munro Chambers takes on the lead role as The Kid, a lonely but intelligent scavenger, The Kid has been surviving pretty much in solitary for years and has gotten use to it, even if the experience has made him humourless and suspicious, in fact the only source of fun he seems to have is the few Turbo Rider comic-books he finds. When Apple suddenly bursts into his life he’s understandably confused but slowly and surely comes to like having her around as a friend and agrees to help her, and that’s even before he finds the costume. What makes The Kid a great character is that he feels genuine, he feels like anyone who’s ever read a comic-book, then found out that they could be their favourite hero, yeah he’s in absolutely no goddamn way qualified or even prepared to handle the situation but he’s gonna give it a shot even if it kills him, he’s a fun character to watch because of how he uses blind f*cking luck to get out of most situations.
But for as much as The Kid is the main character, the film really belong to Apple, played by the very lovely Laurence Leboeuf. Apple is far and away the true heart of this movie, she’s this wide-eyed, simple-minded bundle of joy to watch, in another film Apple would’ve been annoying but in this her sheer amazement at everything she sees and the little misunderstandings she has about normal life make her such an endearing character, she’s just so goddamn positive and happy and gleefully violent that you can’t help but fall in love with her a little bit. Even when you find out about her past and why she is the way she is, it doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s just this odd but amazing character, without her there’s no movie because it’s through her strange friendship that The Kid finds himself taking up the Turbo Rider mantle.
The film is directed with a clear love for the 80s while acknowledging it’s cheesier elements, the fact that the film openly embraces its own cheese is one of the reasons why it works so well, the whole thing is just filled to the brim with a self-awareness that makes it stand out, its knows how ridiculous and over-the-top it is but it’s just comfortable in its own skin. Armed with a pulsing synth soundtrack that feels like a Flash Gordon reject and SFX work that errs on the best side of cheap, the film’s love-letter approach to its own visual style could only work as a homage view of the 80s rather than actually being part of it.
And that’s not even getting started on the gore. Sweet Zombie Jesus this film is bloody and brutal and amazing, I haven’t laughed that much at people dying since Cabin In The Woods – there is even a Cabin-esque moment towards the end which has to be seen to be believed. In keeping with the over-the-top 80s styling the violence is so overblown and so blood-covered that you can’t help but laugh at the spectacle because it’s wonderfully insane, someone loses a limb, they gush blood like a fountain, someone gets shot, half their body explodes, hell the main power of the Turbo Glove makes its victims literally burst into a gushing half-corpse or if hit exactly right into a pile of giblets. And what’s more, nearly all the deaths and gore scenes are full-on practical FX work, it’s messy and sick and horrid but all so great to witness because of how real and how utterly demented it gets. There are so many types of deaths in this film that to try and explain them all would be a disservice to the imagination of the film, heads spin, jaws are ripped off, guts are pulled out, the final battle in particularly has some of the most hilariously unique moments of death and gore that you’ll be surprised it hasn’t been done before. I really don’t want to ruin any of the more original scenes so take my word for it that you’ve never seen anything like this before.
I had a blast with Turbo Kid and it’s one that I really want to see again, hell if the ending has anything to go by there is a possibility for more story to be told. It’s story is suitable simple to make way for the madness that follows, the actors all take the film head-on and help sell the ridiculousness with the frankly adorably insane Apple stealing the film to become one of the stand-out characters of the year and a direction so comfortable in its B-Movie quality and screams of ultra-violence that you can’t help but get sucked into the whole thing. A bloody good time.