Turbo Kid (2016) — Mad BMX the Road Biker


Justin’s rating: Charging… charging…

Justin’s review: Imagine if you went up to a junior high boy in 1987 who was diligently doodling all sorts of crazy and over-the-top gory art in a notebook — and imagine you said, “Hey, I’ve got $15 million for you to turn those totally rad drawings into a movie. Wanna do it?”

Turbo Kid would be the end result of that unlikely event.

A far more authentic throwback to the 1980s than Ready Player One ever was, Turbo Kid extrapolates all of the childhood fantasies we ever had after reading superhero comic books, watching forbidden movies like The Road Warrior, and digging out our treasure chests of toys into one incredibly crazy, brilliant, and gory movie. It’s not serious in the least, but — and this is important — it’s not mocking its inspiration. Instead, this movie revels in the ’80s spirit even as it makes a movie that would’ve never seen the light of day back then.

The Kid (Munro Chambers) is a wasteland scavenger in the alternate “future” of 1997, where water is a scarce commodity controlled by a much older and chunkier Michael Ironside (who plays the one-eyed Zeus). One day, after reading comics and playing with his hard-found ’80s memorabilia, The Kid encounters Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), a “friendship robot” with manic eyes and a smile reminiscent of the Overly Attached Girlfriend meme. Quick friends, the pair end make an enemy of Zeus and find themselves running to outpace him and his goons — a crowd that includes a Jason Vorhees-like madman who has a circular saw for a hand.

Fortunately, The Kid has a couple aces up his sleeves. He discovers a jacked-up Power Glove in a spaceship (just roll with it) that absolutely disintegrates foes, and he makes another friend in the form of a cowboy with a mechanical hand. Altogether, they just might have a fighting chance to make it out of the wasteland alive.

Turbo Kid was one of the first products of my search for cult movies that I had missed in the intervening years that I took off movie reviewing and watching, and I’m a little sad that I missed its debut. It’s a deliberately hand-crafted cult film that, like so many before it, could’ve disqualified itself by being weird for weird’s sake. Instead, the movie takes the trappings of ’80s pop culture and cinema — including having kids ride those little BMX bikes everywhere — and has as much fun with the premise without being too concerned if it makes sense or not.

My only problem here is that Turbo Kid feels like two separate movies. The first is the one that I’ve been describing to you, a sweet, optimistic ’80s-style adventure flick with an unlikely friendship, cool gadgets, and a robot or two. But then it jams in ridiculous splatterhouse elements in all of its fight scenes, with gallons of fake blood and all sorts of implausible kills.

That may work for you, as the gonzo gore is meant more to evoke laughs and admiration for what they did with practical effects than to actually shock and horrify. I just felt it was all quite unnecessary. It didn’t really add much to the final product for me, but it certainly did take this movie out of the running of something I could share with my own children. And that’s a shame, because Turbo Kid’s humor and sense of adventure are top-notch.

It’s a weird, ungainly love child of modern gorehounds and innocent 1980s movies — and there’s certainly not many films out there like Turbo Kid. So welcome home, kid. You can stay a while here.

Didja notice?

  • The laser disc mention at the start (when’s the last time you thought of those?)
  • Nuclear winter AND acid rain? Bummer.
  • That’s just the kind of BMX bike everyone had as a kid in the ’80s
  • Oh man, I miss those Walkmen. (And listen for how the soundtrack gets louder when he turns it on!)
  • Double-hammer is twice as good as hammer
  • Mutant rat!
  • Wouldn’t want to play that version of arm wrestling
  • Gangs are far less intimidating riding around on little bikes
  • Michael Ironside sure got… chunky
  • Viewfinders!
  • Apple’s got a crazy ex-girlfriend smile going on
  • His manly bubble IS comfortable
  • Rule #5: No hugging while riding
  • The gnome club — “so pretty”
  • Nothing like finding a spaceship in the middle of the wasteland
  • Apple’s attack is simply hilarious
  • Of course she’s a robot. That’s the kind of movie this is.
  • Cassette tapes make questionable firewood
  • “Strike first, strike hard, and show no mercy.”
  • His mother totally looks like Princess Leia from Jedi
  • Tell me you didn’t grin when she grabbed the unicorn
  • Mini-atomic bombs solve everything

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