Directors: Anouk Whissell, François Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissell (RKSS)
Release Date: March 17, 2015 (SXSW)
Nostalgia is a lovely thing, especially when it comes to art. It adds that little extra something that allows us to connect to, love, and appreciate it just a bit more. When done improperly, however, nostalgia can handicap and hold back works of art that aren’t strong enough to stand on their own. Turbo Kid relies on the nostalgia of various ’80s films and genres, but treats the time period with reverence while not allowing its attention to certain stylistic choices to negatively affect the overall film.
Turbo Kid, then, fits very well in the modern landscape of indie films where equal focus is given to both production value/quality and dedication to a style/tone that all but guarantee it will become your next favorite cult film. Even if you’re unfamiliar with or not a fan of ’80s films, Turbo Kid has enough energy and infectious charm to assure you’ll fall in love with it.
In a dystopian alternate 1997, the world has been ravaged by some type of apocalypse, leaving behind a barren wasteland where everything goes. The Kid (Munro Chambers) is an orphan traversing across the wasteland for comic books and ’80s trinkets to collect and trade for water (which is a rare commodity in the world). During one of his treks, he meets Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), an enigmatic girl who quickly deems The Kid her new best friend by attaching a tracking device on him. While he’s initially annoyed by her presence, the Kid eventually becomes attached to her, especially after they’re attacked by a biker gang run by the vicious Zeus (Michael Ironside), who himself pits captives against one another in deathmatches where the loser has their blood cleansed and purified for water.
While the Kid is able to escape, Apple finds herself captured by Zeus’ henchmen. During the escape, the Kid comes across a ship implied to be the hero of his comic book’s, complete with a power suit that gives him powers. Teaming up with Frederic (Aaron Jeffery), a vigilante known for his arm-wrestling prowess, they’re able to rescue Apple from Zeus’ clutches. However, by doing so, they draw the ire of Zeus’ full attention.
While Turbo Kid is set in 1997, the film’s presentation makes it seem as if it was shot during the ’80s, complete with a time-appropriate score and sound effects, bright-colored costume palettes to contrast against the drab and gray of the wasteland, and a charm that befits ’80s films. The film draws from various post-apocalyptic ’80s films like BMX Bandits and The Road Warrior in terms of scope and style, especially with the practical visual effects and level of gore that befits the campiest of ’80s films; however, it also possesses the innocent charm and hopeful optimism that helped define ’80s teenage protagonists.
Beyond the ’80s-inspired aesthetic, Turbo Kid is just an amazingly fun film. It’s fun to see the Kid express his awkwardness over getting attention from a pretty girl, just for somebody to get their head decapitated completely with a copious amount of blood gushing out just a few minutes later. Again, while I do believe there’s something in Turbo Kid for everyone, there will be those who just don’t enjoy primal fun qualities like practical blood effects, synth-heavy scores, and a loose plot that is both serious in delivery, but doesn’t take itself seriously at the same time.
Give Turbo Kid a chance, and I can guarantee it’ll become the film you try to rally all of your friends to watch.