Like it or not, we seem to be in the midst of a mini eighties revival which has seen the decade paid homage to in slick thrillers (Cold in July, The Guest) and more obvious Troma-like, B-movie exploitation fests (Hobo with a Shotgun, Manborg). Canadian/New Zealand co-production Turbo Kid (2015) definitely resides in the latter camp – it’s even exec-produced by Hobo director Jason Eisner – but what could have been easily been an empty pastiche with the usual nostalgia trimmings is actually full of heart and invention.
Canadian directing triumvirate François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell fill their frame with a Day-Glo comic book sensibility, complete with a hilariously over-the-top display of blood-geysers and limb-lopping that makes Tarantino’s Kill Bill films seem meek by comparison. Following the obligatory portentous voice-over which explains the post-apocalyptic setting – humorously stating that the year in question is 1997 – we’re introduced to a lone warrior orphan known only as The Kid (Munro Chambers).
The Kid whiles away his time pedalling around the wasteland on his BMX and looking for artefacts which he can display in his disused fall-out shelter which is decorated like an adolescent bedroom. He’s also constantly under threat from the tyrannical Zeus (Michael Ironside) who is intent on harvesting humans for their precious supply of water. Chancing upon a crash site one day, The Kid discovers the actual costume of the fabled Turbo Man comics he constantly has his face buried in. Suiting up, he’s joined by a mysterious girl named Apple (Laurence Leboeuf) and together they venture out to rid the world of Zeus and his gang of marauders – who all look they’ve stumbled over from a Mad Max kids costume party. As to be expected, the references fly thick and fast, but the abundance of eighties iconography is imaginatively woven into the film, from the detailed art direction, to the fun tip of the hat moments to similar genre works from that decade – the makers even factor in one last surprise nod towards the end of the film.
Amongst all the frenetic action and gory mayhem Turbo Kid still manages to retain a sweet centre, helped largely by a memorable synth score and some willing performances from its neophyte cast, particularly Leboeuf, who brings a ditsy, half-crazed sincerity to her role of side-kick/potential love interest which is truly infectious. For those who came of age during the heyday of the video shop, Turbo Kid will undoubtedly offer an appealing call back to those times. What’s even more satisfying, however, is discovering just how well it manages to evoke the era it apes and the loving reverence in which it does so.
Adam Lowes | @adlow76