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Turbo who?

So I didn’t even know about Turbo Kid a few weeks ago. Then I found out about it and got a chance to see it. I’m very glad I did, because it’s a total gem. I knew almost nothing going in (saw the trailer) and expected a long, elaborate, and entertaining joke. But you know, a joke. Like Kung Fury. People will forget all about Kung Fury once they see this. Not because Kung Fury isn’t awesome, but because Turbo Kid is actually the kind of movie that Kung Fury is a 30 minute love-letter to. Not happy to simply homage the scrappy, ridiculous vibe of 80’s cheapie post-apocalypse movies, Turbo Kid recreates them with an unflinching authenticity. There are winks at the audience in the movie, but they almost never take center stage. Instead, Turbo Kid is a “real” movie, with a plot and characters and everything. It’s not a joke, but it is having a laugh.

Francois Simard, Anouk Whissel, and Yoann-Karl Whissel are the trio that wrote and directed the movie and I hope they get to make more, even different stuff. Turbo Kid has a lot of love in it, and plenty of its merit is in how perfectly it captures its retro targets, in other words if you liked stuff like Far Cry 3: Blood DragonManborg, Hobo with a Shotgun and of course Kung Fury then you’re going to like this. Beyond that, the location scouting, props, cinematography, and sheer ideas are what makes the movie shine and those are things that aren’t part of the conceit. They’re all good reasons to see this even if you’re not into the neo-retro thing they’re doing. It’s probably called something better than “neo-retro”, but I don’t know if it is and so this is what I got.

Another? It is ridiculously, outrageously gory and hilarious. Oh oh, and it’s a Canadian-New Zealand co-production. So this is pretty much one of ours.

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Got this whole Luke Skywalker thing going.

Someone who wasn’t a toddler in the 80’s will probably have a vast appreciation for and knowledge of the many things that Turbo Kid is directly referencing. For me, it mostly comes down to the 80’s Conan the Barbarian, to which Turbo Kid owes a couple juicy beats. But I mean, I saw all the Mad Max movies and Solarbabies and fucking The Wizard. I can see all of that here, as well as the sweet sweet electro-pop stylings of John Carpenter or James Cameron movies from the era. Le Matos (awesome band) have got that shit down in Turbo Kid‘s perfect, amazing score.

But we were talking about Conan. The Kid (Munro Chambers) lives alone in the wasteland, in the future devastation of the year 1997. As becomes clear later in the movie, a robot uprising of some kind rendered the world an irradiated mess. The Kid trades what he finds in Town, a place filled with ruffians and overseen by a water baron called Zeus (Michael Ironside). During one of his scavenging forays, he encounters a super friendly, super upbeat girl named Apple (of course it is… er I mean, Laurence Laboeuf). They start hanging out but their idyllic friendship is ruined by the agents of Zeus, who scour the wasteland kidnapping people to turn them into water with a meat grinder. Well, it is a movie.

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Ironside is at his most… Ironside.

Through brief flashbacks interspersed throughout the movie, we learn that The Kid has an origin story very much like that of the aforementioned Conan the Barbarian. When he was little, Zeus came with his bicycle-riding goons and killed his poor parents (in horrifyingly gruesome ways). So the Kid rode off and Zeus figured he’d die. But he lived and ends up finding the remains of a super hero called Turbo Rider. Up to this point, it seems like Turbo Rider is just a character in a comic book. In a fun non-twist, the movie instantly and smoothly redefines its reality to include the robot war and Turbo Rider as part of the history of the world. Which also means The Kid has found the Turbo Glove, a pretty sweet weapon.

With the Glove, he’s able to be more of a badass and stand up for himself, Apple, and the Frederic the Armwrestler (Aaron Jeffrey)… a cyborg cowboy because of course he is. They are thrown into Zeus’s arena where they’re to be killed for sport and mulched into water. Though able to escape, it’s not without cost and this pushes Frederic and newly-minted Turbo Kid into a final splatterpunk confrontation with Zeus.

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A storied but temporary alliance.

Turbo Kid is one of those movies that doesn’t belabour itself or overstay its welcome. It’s charming for its brevity, as much as anything else. The plot is simple, the characters earnest and endearing, and there’s very little that is over-explained or laden with backstory/exposition. This makes it all the more cool, as a nerdy enough mind will instantly go to work filling in the gaps and making even a world as cartoonish (in the good way) and ridiculous as Turbo Kid‘s a real place with stuff going on just beyond where we can see or hear it. I mean, if you’re the kind of person for whom the movie will be ruined when you see the first bicycle chase, you’re gonna have a bad time here. For everyone else, there’s a healthy grasp on the most important parts of world-building, especially the tactile stuff, that gives Turbo Kid life.

The characters will also win you over. The Kid himself is your standard reluctant hero, very much of the type we’ve seen before. The way he cuts fools’ heads off is how you’ll come to love him, plus a little bit of romantic awkwardness just for giggles. Apple, the object of said awkwardness, steals the movie. In anything else, she’d be an insufferable manic pixie dream girl turned so high up that the dial breaks off. Here, she’s endearing and never stops being endearing. Laurence Leboeuf just gives and gives to the movie in every frame she’s in, infusing it with the enthusiasm of her performance. Everyone else is great, called on to ham it up or riff on the scowling badasses of yore, but it’s Apple at the center of it. The heart of the movie even as her hearts run out.

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I mean… look at her. My spirit animal.

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