Release Date: January 26th, 2015 (Sundance)
Directed by: Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Written by: Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Music by: Jean-Philippe Bernier, Jean-Nicolas Leupi
Cast: Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Edwin Wright, Aaron Jeffery, Michael Ironside
EMA Films, Timpson Films, Epic Pictures Group, 95 Minutes
There seems to be a lot of modern films that are homages to bygone cinema. We’ve had modern grindhouse pictures and now 80s style flicks have been popping up here and there. Turbo Kid is an homage to 80s post-apocalyptic action movies but it is also much more than that.
This retro formula doesn’t always work out for the nostalgic filmmakers behind these sort of pictures. Turbo Kid, however, was an overwhelmingly positive experience for me.
Unlike the very short and similar retro epic Kung Fury, this film can follow a narrative and stay on track without becoming distracted by gimmickry and trying to do too much too quickly.
This movie also has some gravitas in the fact that it features the villainous presence of Michael Ironside, who always gave us great villains back in the 1980s. I fondly remember him as the evil warlord Overdog in the mediocre but still cool Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a movie featuring a young Molly Ringwald in a post-apocalyptic setting before her breakout a year later in Sixteen Candles.
This film also has an Indiana Jones clone who has a buddy that is a Mola Ram clone (the villain from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). There is also a character that resembles the characters Thunder and Rain from John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China. Apart from that, other characters have little flourishes that many will find familiar.
The other bad guy and the coolest thing in the movie is a metal skull-faced dude that shoots circular saw blades like Chinese stars with the velocity of a shotgun. He’s obviously an homage to many of the Mad Max villains but a lot more extreme.
The main characters are played by Munro Chambers and Laurence Leboeuf, two young stars that I am going to pay more attnetion to. Chambers is the title character and he evolves into the heroic Turbo Kid. Leboeuf is the cute, sweet, goofy and lovable friendship robot Apple. Leboeuf was just a perfect character in every way and she kept the film grounded, making it something really genuine where this thing could have easily just been an insane gore festival relying solely on nostalgia and cheap tricks.
And yes, the film is incredibly gory. It is so over the top though that it isn’t really gross or offensive, it is mostly comedic in the right way. Essentially, this is supposed to be a living comic book and it is.
I can’t end this without mentioning the score by Le Matos. It fits the tone and style of the film perfectly with its 80s synth tunes. It is a throwback to the soundtracks heard in films like Miami Connection and a lot of the pictures put out by Cannon Films. It fits in today with a lot of the retro wave artists who are making modern music that sounds like 80s film tunes – artists such as Kavinsky, Lazerhawk, Miami Nights 1984, Dynatron, Timecop1983, VHS Dreams, Mitch Murder and others.
Everything about Turbo Kid just feels right. It hit all the right notes but it gave us something that is much more than the sum of its parts. Accomplishing a feat like that is rare and I hope that the sequel, which is in preproduction, can live up to the high bar set by this film.
For those of you with Netflix, this is streaming right now.