Studio: XLrator Media
Director: RKSS Collective
Writer: RKSS Collective
Producer: Anne-Marie Gelinas, Ant Timpson, Benoit Beaulieu, Tim Riley
Stars: Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Aaron Jeffrey, Edwin Wright, Romano Orzari, Michael Ironside
A teenage scavenger becomes an unlikely hero when a power mad warlord terrorizes the post-apocalyptic wasteland of 1997.
While Snake Plissken infiltrates the crumbled ruins of post-apocalyptic Manhattan to rescue President Pleasence from the villainous Duke and his heinous henchmen, The Kid finds himself on a similarly perilous path towards hero-hood in a not-too-different kind of 1997 wasteland. Ruined by war, polluted by toxins, and populated by metal-masked maniacs pedaling BMX dirt bikes, “Turbo Kid” operates under “Road Warrior” rules of every man, madman, and robot for himself during an ongoing struggle for survival in a weird world where clean water is currency, and severed limb blood sprays dance like the Bellagio fountain.
Since the years-ago murder of his parents, The Kid has wandered the wasteland as a solitary scavenger trading trinkets for food to feed himself and comics to fuel fantasies of superpowers. The Kid has a chance to become a hero for real when he stumbles on the crashed spacecraft of the legendary Turbo Rider and takes the mighty turbo glove for himself. He is going to need it, too. Because now he not only has to rescue his crazy new companion Apple, but also a world-famous arm wrestler who has joined The Kid in the crosshairs of a wicked warmonger determined to literally squeeze the H2O out of every sad sack survivor’s bones.
From its first frames of a fumbled Rubik’s Cube rolling into a pike-poked garden of decapitated heads, to an opening credits collage of The Kid making Walkman moves to rival Star-Lord Peter Quill’s, “Turbo Kid” trumpets a take no prisoners attitude towards comic book craziness and camp championing charm. Imagine “The Goonies” meets “Escape from New York” with the costuming of “Mad Max” and the sense of snark from “Guardians of the Galaxy” (review here).
If that doesn’t conjure a specific enough mixture of tone, style, and story, toss in Spielberg’s flair for childhood adventure, Carpenter’s proclivity to soak scores in synthesizers, Tarantino’s penchant for blood-dripping violence, and a kung-fu cinema sense of whip-zoom action. Before anyone raises an eyebrow in question, yes, every one of those aforementioned references is absolutely necessary to encompass the full range of manic energy bursting forth from “Turbo Kid.”
Appealing particularly to film fans of a certain age, “Turbo Kid” chokes on so many 80s references that a second throat is required to swallow them all. Pop song empowerment chorusing off a cassette tape. Pulse-blast weaponry crafted from a Nintendo Power Glove. A robot with a “Legend of Zelda” life bar for an energy gauge. Whether it is bikes with mag wheels, Cobra Kai mantras, Viewmaster reels, or Indiana Jones arm-wrestling Mola Ram, there is something stuffed somewhere that has been pulled from every clamshell case or painted poster cover that ever adorned the beloved shelves of your local VHS video store.
Playing evil overlord Zeus, Michael Ironside is as menacing as ever. That he connects a touchstone thread to vintage villains from the yesteryear that “Turbo Kid” honors is like every other fun-filled facet of the film, more frosting on a cake already capable of creating cavities at the snap of a finger. Unable to decide if Ironside looks more coolly intimidating with a metal ornament eyepatch or a sculpted Greek god facemask, the movie makes the smart choice by outfitting him in both, since anything approaching subtlety is far outside the modus operandi.
Gore is in plentiful supply, and always goofily over-the-top. Yet because the overall pulse beat of “Turbo Kid” is kept at a consistent level of controlled chaos, the outrageousness sizzles in those moments when the spotlight shines bright, without washing the rest of the scenery in silliness.
Even when a character like Apple approaches annoyance with consistently overstated zeal and wide-eyed perkiness, actress Laurence Leboeuf works her magic through the infectious sweetness of cotton candy-colored hair and her “Jem and the Holograms” swagger. Despite intentional irreverence and rampant raucousness, the tone never spins out of hand. “Turbo Kid” always reserves an uncanny ability to summon a spell that returns fun to the forefront whenever the needle pings close towards wearing out its welcome.
Masterminded by the creative trio collectively known as RKSS, “Turbo Kid” is the kind of crowd-pleaser that had it been made 30 years ago, it would be playing for enthusiastic revival theater crowds somewhere in the world at least once every weekend, and its creators would be long since burned out on 12am Q&A’s with fawning fanatics. As a love letter to everything gruesome, gleeful, and glorious about 1980s genre movies and popular culture, “Turbo Kid” is nevertheless engineered specifically for maximum midnight movie madness, and it delivers by the megaton.
Review Score: 90