Turbo Kid is the ultimate midnight movie. It’s a delightfully violent adventure loaded with outrageous kills and gore set to the tune of an especially energizing, heavy synth score that riled up the SXSW crowd big time, myself included.
The story centers on an unnamed character known as The Kid (Munro Chambers). He was orphaned at a young age so has grown up in a post-apocalyptic world all on his own scavenging and selling what he finds in order to survive. Most of the time he trades his loot for precious and very scarce necessities like bottles of water, but every so often he scores a Turbo Kid comic as well. He’s managed to keep to himself for years, but now he’s got no choice, but to stand up to the nefarious leader of the region, Zeus (Michael Ironside), in order to save the day and get the girl, too.
This may sound odd when the film shows one guy’s guts being ripped out and another innocent victim getting sliced and diced to pieces, but one of the best qualities of Turbo Kid is that its heart is in the right place. It’s certainly an extremely violent film, but it’s essentially about a kid getting to live his dream and save lives in the process, and who can’t get behind that mission?
And of course it also helps that Chambers has one heck of an on-screen presence. He barely says a thing for the first few minutes of the film, but there’s no stopping The Kid from tugging at your heartstrings when he sits on a swing-set and absolutely lights up while reading his Turbo Kid comic after a hard day’s work collecting garbage in the dismal environment. However, Chambers also has no trouble switching gears and turning The Kid into a very believable force to be reckoned with. He’s doe-eyed and a bit childish, but Chambers certainly manages to sell a convincing transformation while still holding on to an appropriate amount of that youthful innocence.
Laurence Leboeuf’s Apple, on the other hand, might take some getting used to. She pops up out of nowhere and ambushes The Kid while he’s quietly reading his comic. She’s in need of a new best friend, dubs him the one and then, despite his protest, follows him everywhere, and often far too close for comfort. She’s loud, intense and can be quite abrasive, but as the film progresses, she grows on you and proves her worth, which is the same effect she has on The Kid.
Based on the post-screening Q&A, it seems as though first time feature directors Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell had an absolute blast making this movie and you can really feel it. Turbo Kid has this playful quality to it that compels you to let loose, embrace the characters and have fun no matter what. For anyone with a taste for 80s and 90s nostalgia, Turbo Kid delivers big from start to finish. There are countless unforgettable novelties including The Kid’s attachment to a View-Master, the Mad Max and BMX Bandits parallels, the design of The Kid’s Turbo Blaster, Le Matos’ synth pop score and more.
RKSS (the name of the trio’s filmmaking collective) has such a firm handle on the style and tone that the possibilities are endless. They’re very clearly paying homage to films like Mad Max, BMX Bandits and Evil Dead, but not in a way that just gives them an excuse to do things like throw in over-the-top playful carnage and include an especially theatrical villain. It’s certainly fun to connect the dots and enjoy pastime nods, but Turbo Kid is also very much its own thing as well. RKSS creates a rich, vibrant world and packs it to the brim with fun idiosyncrasies, details and characters. This post-apocalyptic version of 1997 is very much their own. They just establish it as a place where these throwbacks belong.
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