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Originally designed and conceived as an entry into the first ABCs of Death anthology of horror shorts ("T is for Toilet" won out instead), Turbo Kid is a retro throwback to the low-budget post-apocalyptic joints of the early 1980s. Campy, gory, and a complete and total blast from start to finish, it also makes a solid companion piece to George Miller’s latest action opus, Mad Max: Fury Road.
Two very different movies, they represent opposite sides of the same coin. Miller’s movie is essentially an update of the gritty, post-apocalyptic world he first visited with Mel Gibson at his side in 1979, building on the world he created. Turbo Kid on the other hand—written and directed by the trio of Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell—is a loving send up of the glut of cheap international post-apocalyptic knock offs that Mad Max helped spawn throughout the 1980s.
Turbo Kid pokes fun, in a very fond way, at movies like 1990: The Bronx Warriors, The New Barbarians, and 2019, After the Fall of New York. It hits all the tropes and clichés, but also add fun, inventive tweaks as they go.
Set in the distant future, the year 1997, when the world has been ruined by acid rain and nuclear winter, the action revolves around the Kid (Munro Chambers from Degrassi: The Next Generation). An orphaned loner, he keeps to himself in his ‘80s style bomb shelter hideout (fans of Gleaming the Cube will enjoy his digs), scavenging what he can, trading most of his take for tattered comic books. When he meets the mysterious, not to mention weird as hell, Apple (Laurence Lebeouf), he becomes a reluctant hero (is there any other kind in these movies?) when she is kidnapped. His quest puts him in direct conflict with the mask-wearing warlord of the wasteland, Zeus (genre king Michael Ironside at his diabolical best), a villain who literally juices people to get to the water their bodies contain. When the Kid finds a powerful weapon, he must channel his favorite superhero, Turbo Rider, in order to save the day.
If that sounds awesomely ludicrous and absurd, you don’t even know the half of it. Turbo Kid is a movie where arm wrestling has way more serious consequences than you normally expect—the loser either gets the back of his hand branded, or, in a scenario where the stakes are raised even higher, the exposed blades of a blender. While everything is played straight on the surface, tongue is planted firmly in cheek.
You can’t help but notice an aesthetic and thematic kinship with Hobo With A Shotgun, which makes sense because Hobo director and mastermind Jason Eisener serves as a producer on this film. But Turbo Kid is more than just ridiculousness—though don’t worry, there are a number of blood geysers to sate your cinematic bloodlust and thirst for craziness.
In the midst of all this chaos, and there is a great deal of chaos—including some sweet BMX chases and a wrist-mounted weapon the flings saw blades—there is still a warm, engaging heart. Against all odds, Kid and Apple develop a sweet, if intrinsically strange, relationship. Even the grizzled drifter (Aaron Jeffry), as gruff and rugged as he is—this is the kind of guy who can light a match on his cheek—has a softer side without it feeling forced.
Over the top violence and intentional camp combine to create what is really a very fond homage to a relatively overlooked subgenre—though it is making a comeback in recent days, which must say something about our collective psyche. There are clever nods sprinkled in throughout, and the filmmakers have an obvious affection that is apparent in every element, from the inclusion and subversion of all the usual genre flourishes, to the attention to detail, to the tips of the cap to the movies that inspired them—one scene that features a can of scavenged dog food will make some of you smile more than it reasonably should. Populated by a rogues gallery of post-apocalyptic types—guys with skull masks, dudes with ski goggles, armor cobbled together out of abandoned sports equipment, and all kinds of fun throwback retro future garb—it hits every note you want.
Turbo Kid has the makings of a perfect midnight movie, and will be a nostalgic blast in the face for those of us old enough to remember, or at least those who have developed an affinity for, the cheap Mad Max knock offs of the early 1980s. It’s respectful satire done up with a healthy dose of love and appreciation, it never hits a lull or loses momentum, and is propelled by post-apocalyptic good times, impaling, blood, and a soaring, genre-appropriate synth score.