“Turbo Kid” is a junk food packed with cheesy and hammy elements while cheerfully drenched in a nasty hot sauce of violence. It is goofy and amusing at times, but the movie eventually feels more like an expired one-note joke as spinning its wheels with more cheesiness and goriness to throw at us. You may appreciate the filmmaker’s enthusiasm behind the screen, but, unless you have some soft spots for those cheap SF adventure action flicks made during the 1980-90s or have some tolerance for various bloody ways of body mutilation, you will more likely cringe at it rather than laughing about it.
Right from its beginning, the movie feels authentically tacky with its notable old-fashioned details. Among so many logos of production companies shown before its first scene (please don’t ask me which one is real or not), there is the one clearly resembling that familiar logo of the Cannon Group, and we also get a typical prologue narration which briefly explains its post-apocalyptic background under a very, very serious tone just like those lesser imitators coming after the success of “Mad Max” (1979) and “The Terminator” (1984).
It is 1997 (no kidding), and the human civilization was collapsed by a nuclear war several years ago in this gray ‘futuristic’ dystopian world which actually looks like remote locations somewhere in Canada. The life is harsh and difficult for everyone in this world as they rummage for any useful or valuable scraps in their wasteland area, and clean water has been the most valuable commodity in their world.
As a cheesy synthesizer-dominated song which will definitely take you to the 1980s is loudly played over the main title scene, we meet our young hero who is simply named “The Kid” (Munro Chambers). While living alone in his private underground bunker where he has collected various remnants of human civilization like Wall-E, he goes around the surrounding area using his BMX bicycle, and he is ready to find anything valuable to be exchanged with a bottle of clean water or an old copy of his favorite comic book series “Turbo Rider”.
His main dealer is Babu (Romano Orzari), and a shabby abandoned factory where Babu is doing his usual business are full of extras who mostly looks like costume party attendees despite their seemingly ragged and rusty attires. Among them is a tough cowboy guy named Frederick (Aaron Jeffery), and we see him doing his latest arm wrestling match with some other guy, which is accompanied with a considerable risk for each own right hand on the table.
Frederick has a brother who is also one of the members of his group, and that brother is killed by the brutal henchmen of Zeus (Michael Ironside), a sadistic gang leader who has dominated over the area and its people as firmly holding his source of clean water. One of his henchmen particularly stands out with his menacing mask and rather awkward body movement, and I must warn you in advance that this mute guy has a very unpleasant of killing people using a lethal weapon attached to his left arm.
Meanwhile, our young hero come across two things to change his life forever. One is an odd girl named Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), and her loony perkiness certainly unnerves the Kid during their bizarre Meet Cute scene at an abandoned playground. She simply follows after him just because she wants to be at his service as his companion, and you will probably not be surprised when the Kidd comes to know a lot more about her later in the story.
The other one is a special power suit the Kid happens to discover within a mysterious aircraft which has been hidden under the ground for many years since its crash. Thanks to his favourite comic book series, the Kid instantly recognizes what it is. The left glove of the suit is attached with something you have probably seen from many old SF movies, and the Kid soon beholds what he can do with it during his first trial, though it frequently needs to be recharged.
It will not be a spoiler to tell you that the Kid, Apple, and Frederic eventually stick together to fight against Zeus and his gangs, and the co-directors/co-writers François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell, who developed their debut feature film from their 2011 short film “T Is for Turbo” (they also appeared as minor supporting characters in the film, by the way), wildly wield the absurd moments of action and violence as maintaining the deliberately cheesy mood in their film. I was especially tickled by its goofy touch involved with BMX bicycles which happen to be the most common vehicles for both good and bad guys in the film, and how the movie uses them for action scenes is its another funny aspect to notice. The actors keep their performances straight to the materials they are supposed to deal with, and I liked the intentionally campy villain performance by Michael Ironside, a Canadian veteran actor who once played a vicious villain to be remembered for one hell of memorable exit in “Total Recall” (1990).
However, I got tired then as the movie kept going back and forth between its only two modes: very cheesy and very violent. You may go along well with those cheesy moments, but then there come lots of bloody moments where many characters including the Kid’s currently diseased parents are sliced or impaled or blasted or disemboweled in many imaginable ways to be admired by splatter horror fans. At one point, some unfortunate supporting character captured by Zeus is put under a gruesome situation in which his intestine is tightly connected to the rear wheel of a bicycle ready to be pedaled under Zeus’ order. During what is supposed to be a big climactic showdown, many guys are exploded like blood balloons, and we also get a man staggering with a number of sliced torsos stacked on him like a totem pole. In the other words, this movie is not for your kids, certainly.
“Turbo Kid” won the Audience Award in the midnight section at the SXSW film festival early in this year, and it also won the Best Director Award when it was shown at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in South Korea during this summer. I could see how it appeals to some audiences as a cult favorite, but, seriously, it could have had more than those bloody guts for transcending its genre trappings.