I am a child of the 80’s. I remember that decade quite clearly and still have a great deal of nostalgia and love for those years of my life. Plus, you can’t deny the vast wealth of amazing properties and titles that were born in that age. From the music to the movies, the TV shows to the clothing. Well, maybe not that last one… But getting to the point, it was a decade that I look back to and think of as being just a ton of fun.
That brings me to Turbo Kid, the apocalyptic action sci-fi/horror film that has been the darling of the festival circuit and has audiences buzzing all over. And you damn well better believe I’ve been swept up by the hype.
The film follows the adventures of “The Kid” (Munro Chambers), a shy, reclusive young man who is more interested in filling up his “Turbo Rider” comic book collection than interacting with anyone still living in the post apocalyptic wasteland of 1997 (no, I’m not joking there). The area he lives in is under the control of the vicious and tyrannical “Zeus”, who is played by the always awesome Michael Ironside (Total Recall, The Machinist, Starship Troopers), who is running a Soylent Green-esque operation. The Kid does his best to lay low, keep to himself, and scavenge random knick knacks to occupy his time.
One day, while reading one of his comics, he is surprised by “Apple” (Laurence Leboeuf), an overly enthusiastic girl who seemingly can’t stop smiling. They form a friendship that The Kid is obviously woefully unprepared for, yet it’s obvious as the time passes that he appreciates her presence. It takes away the loneliness that he’s wrapped himself in for years and her charm and seemingly unflappable positivity brightens the bleak world they live in.
But, like any good 80’s action film, Apple is kidnapped by one of Zeus’ thugs. During this altercation, The Kid falls into a crashed vehicle where he stumbles upon the uniform of a real Turbo Rider, complete with the incredibly powerful and destructive “turbo glove”. Donning the suit, The Kid ventures off to face Zeus and win back Apple. That’s all of the synopsis that I’m willing to give you as the rest of it simply needs to be seen.
Alright, let’s talk about the movie itself and not just what happens, shall we?
Firstly, it’s a beautiful looking movie. The landscapes shown hearken back to the days when those bleak apocalyptic views were matte paintings rather than the swooping CGI plains we are usually given these days. By doing this, it really added to the aesthetic and theme of the film and it was something I noticed and really appreciated. Additionally, they made the most of the locations they filmed in, really making it feel like it was the end of times. It probably helped that there were impaled heads and skulls everywhere.
Next, let’s talk about the soundtrack, which was composed by Le Matos. A lot of horror movies lately have been utilizing horror-inspired retrosynth scores. While I absolutely love that style, sometimes it doesn’t fit the style of film it’s backing. But that isn’t the case here. In fact, I couldn’t think of a better compliment to Turbo Kid. It’s fun and it’s energetic, which is precisely what the movie itself offers. My only complaint, and it’s a small one, is that there sometimes feels like too much music. A bit of a break from this wicked soundtrack would make me appreciate it all the more because it’d miss it in the moments of silence.
When it comes to the acting, it’s obvious that everyone had a lot of fun with their roles. Chambers really locked down the whole “meek boy becomes a determined hero” role while never making it seem like he went from zero to unstoppable. He still falters and flails but he does so with confidence. Meanwhile, Leboeuf is incredibly charming and delightful as “Apple”, playing the role with glee. The interaction between the two feels very organic and it’s a joy to watch them become more and more important in each other’s lives.
Ironside isn’t as charismatic and exciting as many of his previous characters but he still is a joy to watch. Aaron Jeffrey, who plays “Frederic”, is very funny as the cowboy-esque mentor to Chambers, spouting out one deep sounding adage after another, even though he fully admits that he doesn’t know if they’re true and that he simply likes the sound of them. The script is tight and the characters banter convincingly without anything sounding too forced. Plus, there are some super cheesy one-liners that will make audiences either groan or laugh hysterically. I’m in the latter camp.
Something that made me laugh on more than one occasion was the play on 80’s high speed car chases. In Turbo Kid, they try to do the same thing but since there are no vehicles in the movie they instead elected to use bicycles, which looks ludicrous but is so damn funny! Hearing intense synth beats pulsate while The Kid is pedaling as fast as he can had me nearly in tears, loving every single ridiculous second!
Now, for the bit that horror fans will love: Turbo Kid is outrageously, unbelievably, almost shockingly gory. There are kills in this movie that I promise you’ve never seen before and they’re done completely with practical FX. I can’t begin to imagine how much fake blood was used in the making of this movie but I’m guessing a few hundred gallons at the least. Additionally, the deaths of several bad guys had me cheering and clapping in delight.
Yes, there is a fair bit of CG used in the film. However, it never feels like a detriment and is used in places where no other option was available, especially considering the low budget nature.
The only thing I’m sad about is that I watched the movie on my own rather than with other people, as it’s meant to be seen. Trust me and watch it with friends.
The Final Word: There’s no two ways around it, Turbo Kid is an absolute blast and deserves all the love and praise that it’s been given! I loved every second of it and it’s one of those movies that I want to watch over and over.