Directed by: Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissel || Produced by: Benoit Beaulieu, Anne-Marie Gelinas, Tim Riley, Ant Timpson
Screenplay by : Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell || Starring: Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Edwin Wright, Aaron Jeffery, Romano Orzari, Orphee Ladouceur
Music by: Jean-Philippe Bernier, Jean-Nicolas Leupi || Cinematography by: Jean-Philippe Bernier || Edited by: Luke Haigh || Country: Canada, New Zealand || Language: English
Running Time: 95 minutes
Films fueled by nostalgia for decades past are more common than you’d think; from feature length movies like George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973) to the Swedish short film, Kung Fury (2015), to most everything Quentin Tarantino has ever made, filmmakers tend to return to the environments of their formative adolescence for inspiration. Such movie-making becomes a form of time-travel, a vehicle through which modern viewers can experience how people felt and what movies were popular way back when. It’s similar yet different than watching movies made many years ago, which is sort of time-traveling in another sense.
This brings us to Turbo Kid (TK), one of the finest modern nostalgia-fueled movies around, a feature that has far more heart and soul to it than something like Kung Fury, whose entire creative purpose is limited to, “Hey, remember the ’80s??!!” Don’t get me wrong — TK has plenty of love and affection for the unapologetic, explicit action movies of the Reagan Era, but writer-directors Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yaon-Karl Whissell acknowledge that the core of any film, nostalgic or not, must respect the basics of screenwriting and character development if it is to succeed.
Taking cues from post-apocalyptic movies like the Mad Max trilogy (1979, 1981, 1985) and violent dystopian epics like Robocop (1987), as well as virtually every 1980s techno soundtrack ever made, TK oozes nostalgia at every turn. It’s like a grab-bag of 1980s pop culture trivia, and yet that entire tone and post-apocalyptic premise is wrapped around an adorable, universally appealing romance between leads Munro Chambers and Laurence Leboeuf. The two of them are incredibly cute and fill you full of warm, fuzzy feelings despite the depressing, monotonous wasteland and horrific violence all around them.
Speaking of that violence, TK is as bloody and over-the-top as any Paul Verhoeven flick, but as in films like Robocop or Starship Troopers (1997), much of the carnage is tongue-in-cheek and not meant to be taken too seriously. Most of that on-screen violence is dealt by Canadian tough-man extraordinaire, Michael Ironside, who’s maintained his intimidating, gravely voice and rugged demeanor well into his 60s. The man could play great villains or tough mentors until he dies of a heart attack, as far as I’m concerned.
As for the movie’s soundtrack, it’s repetitive and continuous, like the film’s setting, yet altogether it’s well written and well used in the picture. The symphony played during the final showdown is particularly rousing, and yet the music always feels obliged to sound as playful as possible. It’s yet another great factor that makes the movie so much fun.
The few downsides to the movie are its one-note location-shooting (everything’s grey, grey, and dull blue-grey) and the occasional moments when the gory gross-out tactics start to wear thin. Because of the movie’s tone and playful characters, the extreme violence feels more akin to Mad TV skits than Eli Roth gore-porn, but at a certain point the buckets of blood and bodies impaled upon bodies grow repetitive. Also, the number of times a certain lead actor dies and reassembles becomes absurd by the end.
Altogether though, Turbo Kid is a super-fun, super-funny movie that is sure to please both fans of the 1980s and those who couldn’t care less about the decade. It pays homage to the likes of Ozploitation, vintange Verhoeven, the Power Rangers (1993-1996, perhaps some 1990s nostalgia, too?), and more, yet it maintains a memorable originality all its own. Hell, it makes me wanna remember being a kid in the 1980s, and I wasn’t even born then…
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Turbo Kid’s got real heart, more evident in no other place than its lovable leads. Micheal Ironside is a great villain, yet again. The film turns its gore-levels to extreme and beyond, combining painful deaths with powerful, funny violence to great effect. The synth-soundtrack is awesome.
— However… the amount of said gore, however tongue-in-cheek it may be, grows repetitive by the story’s end, as does the landscape around our characters and the number of times one of them “dies.”
? Playtime’s over. Now, witness my Turbo-fist!