You Need to Watch ‘Turbo Kid’

This Netflix recommendation comes courtesy of my cousin Jake, because I give credit where it’s due.

If the fantastic Stranger Things has not sated your appetite for all things ‘80s genre flicks and sythwave, then you need to give Turbo Kid a shot. This delightful 95 minute action/comedy/parody/homage romp is the massively positive force you need in your life right now. It’s a joint Canadian-New Zealand production that was shown at Sundance and SXSW in 2015 and it got a super limited release last August. This thing needs to be in your queue right the hell now.

Set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of 1997 (no, really) it follows the adventures of a kid who idolizes the fictional comic book hero Turbo Man and rides around on a bicycle (the primary means of transportation in this wasteland) salvaging junk and doing his best to be like his hero. Along the way he meets a delightfully whacky robot girl named Apple, teams up with a foul-mouthed, arm-wrestling cowboy with an Australian accent named Frederic (Aaron Jeffery) and does battle with the warlord Zeus (Michael Ironside, the only recognizable actor in this), who seeks to control the wasteland’s limited water supply.

The whole affair is aggressively cheeky and self-aware but balanced out with some gloriously over the top violence that is always hilarious. More than anything else though, you’ll be watching it for all the callbacks and references. The most obvious inspiration for Turbo Kid is George Miller’s Mad Max films, but just about every other ‘80s action/adventure and sci-fi flick you can think of gets a send-up: Indiana Jones, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Starfighter and The Terminator were just some of the few I spotted and there’s no doubt many more I missed.

Turbo Kid is has the budget equivalent to a YouTube fan film, but the cheap production value is highly endearing, especially since it makes the retro effects work and props seem even more authentic. To give you some idea on how committed this film is to its retro-ism: it opens on the Epic Pictures (its US distributor) logo, which includes the line “#1 leader in laser disc sales.” Damn, that’s good.

Cheeky self-awareness can be fun and all, but it can get a bit trite and obnoxious after awhile. The brilliant thing that co-writing/co-directing team of François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell do is know when to be sincere. The titular Turbo Kid’s (Munro Chambers) adoration and emulation of his hero is treated with utmost seriousness and his relationship with Apple (Laurence Leboeuf; manic and brilliant) is genuinely sweet in spite of everything else in the movie. The scenes where they play tag in the wasteland will bring a non-ironic smile to your face.

Look, I don’t even know why I’m still talking about this. Michael Ironside is in full ham mode! It’s silly Mad Max on bicycles! A dude gets speared with a freaking umbrella! Go watch this thing. You won’t regret it.

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