I saw Turbo Kid in the Chicago Filmmakers space during its Chicago premiere weekend. (i missed the actual premiere by one day) Sure, it had already played at Bruce Campbell’s Horror Film Festival in Rosemont, but we all know that Rosemont is Chicago-adjacent and not actually Chicago, right? Anyway, it was presented by the good folks at Chicago Cinema Society and it brought the house down! (that’s not hyperbole – the building actually collapsed. well, maybe not “collapsed”, but shook imperceptibly with laughter at least)
The story is pretty familiar – a post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by weirdoes fighting over limited resources is navigated by an unlikely hero fighting for honor and justice. The art direction is retro 80s cool (very “in” right now). We’ve seen these characters before – the protagonist is a likeable kid with a lot of heart and he has a super-chipper sidekick. But the execution is a fun-filled, blood-spraying extravaganza of dismemberment and insanity. Specifics (without getting too specific): The Kid (Munro Chambers) has been making it on his own in The Wasteland for years, managing to avoid getting killed. He meets up with the very strange but bubbly Apple (Laurence Leboeuf) who tags along with him despite his initial opposition to the idea. Meanwhile, Zeus (Michael Ironside), a local warlord type, is treating people very poorly; thereby, garnering the wrath of Frederick (Aaron Jeffery), the local arm wrestling champ and all-around badass. Paths cross and good guys align against bad. Setbacks, triumphs, losses, and cemented loyalties all lead up to a ridiculous (in a good way) final showdown. Oh, and everyone rides bicycles.
How did directors Francois Simard, Anouk Whissel, and Yoahh Whissell craft such a fresh, fun film out of tropes that we’ve seen before? Well, I don’t know, do I? (i wasn’t there.) But, I can say that they’ve done just that. The movie manages to avoid feeling hackneyed or wholly derivative and stays firmly on the loving homage end of the spectrum. The filmmakers certainly put their own spin on this (neo)classic formula. At no point did I get bored or roll my eyes. The people around me in the audience were really eating it up too. There were whoops, hollers, groans, and laughs in all of the right places and for all of the right reasons. That’s almost everything that I want out of a cinema experience – solid entertainment and an on-the-same-page audience!
THE FINAL CUT: Turbo Kid is a riotous, adoring tribute to 80s sci-fi action with lovable (and hateable) characters, copious amounts of blood, plenty of grue for the gorehounds, and lots of sight gags, winky quips, and cartoonish violence for the laugh…hounds(?).