Thursday, August 27, 2015

'Turbo Kid' Movie Review

George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road may have ruled the post-apocalyptic subgenre this summer, but TurboKid a retro throwback to the low-budget Mad Max knock-offs of the early 1980s, and is a total blast beginning to end that you need to check out. Originally envisioned as an entry for the first ABCs of Death anthology (“T is for Toilet” made the cut instead), it’s an awesome opus in itself.

Turbo Kid and FuryRoad are very different movies, but opposite sides of the same coin. Miller’s film updates the grim, post-apocalyptic world he and Mel Gibson first toured in 1979, building on his own creation. Written and directed by the trio of Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell, Turbo Kid is a fond send up of the cheap, shoddy international imitations Mad Max helped spawn throughout the ‘80s.

Turbo Kid pokes loving fun at movies like 1990: The Bronx Warriors, The New Barbarians, and 2019, After the Fall of New York. It hits all the tropes and clichés that you expect, but also adds in playful, inventive tweaks as it goes along, so it isn’t simply a rehash.

Set in the distant future, the far-off year of 1997, when the world has been ruined by acid rain (remember acid rain?) and nuclear winter, the action revolves around the Kid (Munro Chambers from Degrassi: The Next Generation). An orphaned loner, he keeps to himself in his ‘80s style bomb shelter hideout (fans of Gleaming the Cube will enjoy his digs), scavenging what he can, trading most of his take for tattered comic books. When he meets the mysterious, not to mention weird as shit, Apple (Laurence Lebeouf), he becomes a reluctant hero (is there any other kind in these kinds movies?) when she is kidnapped. His quest puts him in direct conflict with the mask-wearing warlord of the wasteland, Zeus (genre king Michael Ironside at his diabolical best), a villain who literally juices people to get to the water their bodies contain. When the Kid comes across a powerful weapon, he channels his favorite superhero, Turbo Rider, in order to save the day.

If that sounds awesomely absurd and ludicrously over the top, you don’t even know. Turbo Kid is a movie where arm wrestling has way more serious consequences than you normally expect—the loser either gets the back of his hand branded, or, in a scenario where the stakes are raised even higher, thrust into the exposed blades of a blender. All of the action is played straight on the surface, though it operates wtih tongue planted firmly in cheek.

There is an obvious aesthetic and thematic kinship with Hobo With a Shotgun, which makes a great deal of sense because Hobo director and mastermind Jason Eisener is one of the producers. However, Turbo Kid is more than just absurdity and gore—though don’t worry, there are a number of blood geysers to sate your cinematic bloodlust and thirst for craziness.

In the midst of all of this mayhem, and there is so much mayhem to be found—including wrist-mounted weapons that fire saw blades and all manner of kick ass BMX chases that could have been lifted from an insane alternate version of Rad—there is a warm, gooey center. Despite a rocky start, Kid and Apple develop a sweet, if inherently bizarre, relationship. Even the grim, gritty drifter (Adam Jeffry), gruff and rugged on the outside—the dude could light a match on his cheek if he wanted—has a natural softness.

Over the top violence and intentional camp combine to create what is really a very fond homage to a relatively overlooked subgenre—though it is making a comeback in recent days, which must say something about our collective psyche. There are clever nods sprinkled in throughout, and the filmmakers have an obvious affection that is apparent in every element, from the inclusion and subversion of all the usual genre flourishes, to the attention to detail, to the tips of the cap to the movies that inspired them—one scene that features a can of scavenged dog food will make some of you smile more than it reasonably should. Populated by a rogues gallery of post-apocalyptic types—guys with skull masks, dudes with ski goggles, armor cobbled together out of abandoned sports equipment, and all kinds of fun throwback retro future garb—it hits every note you want.

Turbo Kid has the makings of a perfect midnight movie, and will be a nostalgic blast in the face for those of us old enough to remember, or at least those who have developed an affinity for, the cheap Mad Max knock offs of the early 1980s. It’s respectful satire done up with a healthy dose of love and appreciation, it never hits a lull or loses momentum, and is propelled by post-apocalyptic good times, impaling, blood, and a soaring, genre-appropriate synth score. [Grade: B+]

No comments: