Turbo Kid full movie review - Fans of 1970s and 80s B-movie future schlock will really get a charge out of "Turbo Kid".
Let's make a movie about the future, but set it in the past and make it look like it was set even further in the past.
That could've been the pitch for "Turbo Kid" (NR, 1:33) ? and that's just one of many interesting and unusual things that there are to learn about this film even before discussing what it's about. For one thing, it's a co-production of Canada and New Zealand. Since it's technically a foreign film, it has no MPAA rating (but if it did, it would surely be rated "R"). The movie has three directors, François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell, all three of which also share credit for the screenplay, and all appear in the movie in small roles. What's more, the cinematographer, Jean-Philippe Bernier, is also one of the two people who did the film's score, which is a highly unusual combination of jobs. Now, let's get back to that highly unusual pitch summary in the first sentence of this paragraph.
"Turbo Kid" is a post-apocalyptic action movie set in the "future" year of 1997. That actually makes sense when you know that the film intentionally looks and sounds like it was made in the early 1980s. Stating it another way, this movie is "retro futuristic". It's a lot like many of the movies made in the late 70s and early 80s. In fact, the year picked for the story's setting, 1997, is the same year in which 1981's classic dystopian action thriller "Escape from New York" takes place. And that's not the only connection between other movies of this film's sub-genre. There are passing verbal references and visuals that are subtle shout-outs to movies like "Soylent Green" and "The Terminator". What's not so subtle is the strong and obvious influence of another post-apocalyptic film series from the 1980s (rebooted in 2015) on the plot, setting and costumes in this movie. As "Wired" magazine said, it's "'Mad Max' on a BMX".
Munro Chambers plays a character simply called "The Kid", an orphaned teen just trying to survive in a land laid waste by? something (?) which led to the end of civilized society. The Kid scavenges items that he can "sell" to his world's version of a pawn broker (Romano Ozari) for that most precious of commodities ? water. The water that exists is under the control of a sadistic general called Zeus (Michael Ironside). As he brags to his "minions" (NOT the cute kind), he not only provides their liquid sustenance, but their entertainment as well. He sponsors regular violent and bloody gladiatorial-like contests between his "henchmen" (better word) and those unfortunate enough to have double-crossed Zeus? or just crossed his path.
When he's not scavenging, The Kid is obsessing over his favorite superhero, someone called "Turbo Rider". The Kid has various Turbo Rider memorabilia in his house and then gets a hold of an old Turbo Rider comic book, which he seems to value almost as much as staying hydrated. As he's sitting in an old playground reading his comic book aloud to himself, he's approached by a girl named Apple (played by Canadian actress Laurence Leboeuf) who wants to be friends. She's impossibly chipper (either gratingly or adorably, depending on your point of view) and she may or may not be a cold-blooded killer. But she insists on hanging out with The Kid, and, well, friends are hard to come by in this terrible future-past (or is it past-future?), so he lets her tag along as he scavenges.
As dangerous as this time and place is, you have to be tough to survive. The Kid teaches Apple his rules for survival and soon the two of them meet someone even tougher than The Kid ? a cowboy type named Frederic (Aaron Jeffery) who's an arm-wrestling champion and the closest thing that the few decent people left alive have to a protector. That is, until The Kid becomes Turbo Kid. He finds a costume that makes him look and feel like his hero, Turbo Man. The costume doesn't help him fly or anything, but it does have a pretty serious weapon built into one of the arms. The Kid becomes Turbo Kid just in the nick of time. For different reasons, Apple and Frederic both run afoul of Zeus and they need some serious turbo-charged rescuing! But even if Turbo Kid can free his only two friends from the clutches of Zeus, he'd likely be pretty ticked off and would probably want to hunt them down and, you know, kill them all.
It's kind of a tough thing to judge this movie. On the one hand, it is very effective at evoking the feeling of cheesy early-80s future schlock. On the other hand, the violence (albeit comic violence) can be a bit excessive ? unless you find dismemberment and gallons of fake blood shooting everywhere to be amusing. Still, the graphic destruction of so many human bodies notwithstanding, this movie deserves credit for being very different from any other 2015 release and it is more entertaining than not. All this comes out to a mild recommendation ? with a strong warning. Considering all the blood and guts, a kids' movie this is not, but adults (especially those who like the cheesier movies of the 70s and 80s, and enjoy a good splatter flick) may find seeing "Turbo Kid" to be a blast. This B-movie gets? a "B".