Here’s the thing about Canadian cinema: we will never have enough money to make movies on the level of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, but sometimes someone will have a crazy idea that can be done cheaply with very gory results. In “Turbo Kid” the world has been destroyed by a nuclear apocalypse and now everyone gets around on bicycles while a crazed overlord controls the water supply, until a lone hero defies him thanks to a laser blaster he found in a crashed ship. How’s that for a crazy idea?
Some filmmakers make movies that pay homage to the crazy film decade that was the 1980s and some like to just plain parody it. Filmmaking trio François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell, also known as The RKSS (Road Kill Super Stars), go one step further and direct as though they are actually in that decade. In the universe of their movie a nuclear disaster occurred and the film picks up in the future, which in this case is…1997.
This is a post-apocalyptic wasteland we have seen many times, most notably in the “Mad Max” movies, although the action is clearly set in Canada due to the patches of snow seen here and there, and the bilingual Stop signs. Another major difference is that even the bad guys get around on bicycles because there is apparently no more fuel or cars left. The sight of marauders armed with machetes pedalling their way towards the heroes might seem ridiculous, but it kind of makes sense if you think about it. If there really has been an apocalypse there wouldn’t be any industry left, including oil refineries.
The story’s hero is simply called The Kid (Munro Chambers) who lives all alone in his underground bunker and only leaves to scavenge for valuables, which he trades for water and of course comic books. His life is thrown upside down when he meets a girl (Laurence Leboeuf) who is the embodiment of the manic pixie dream girl tuned up to 11. Despite living in a wasteland this girl is surprisingly upbeat, with a smile constantly glued to her face, wide-open eyes fascinated by anything new, and energy as though she has caffeine running through her veins. Even when she is thrown in a pit with gladiators about to tear her to pieces she looks like she is having the time of her life. Her name, of course, is Apple.
There is somewhat of a plot that sets The Kid and Apple on a rollicking adventure together against the villain Zeus (Michael Ironside, sporting an eye patch and having a great time) who controls the water and therefore the wasteland. There is also a rugged cowboy (Aaron Jeffery) with a New-Zealand accent who is also an arm-wrestling champion that would be the hero if this weren’t The Kid’s story. Story details in this kind of story don’t really matter as much as the style and action, and there is plenty of that.
The RKSS clearly love the bloodier catalogue of 80s cinema because whatever small amount of money they had to make their movie, they spent a large chunk of it on buckets of blood. Characters are blown to bits, jaws are ripped, and in one particularly gruesome scene Zeus comes up with a clever way to use a bicycle as a torture device. It involves a man’s digestive track.
This is the kind of movie midnight showings were made for. If you grew up in the 80s you will love the reverence the filmmakers have for the work of early Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, and George Miller. If you haven’t seen any of those movies shame on you, but you will still be able to enjoy the movie for its manic energy, its dark humor, and its performances, especially Leboeuf’s.
(“Turbo Kid” is currently out in select theatres.)