In an alternate 1997, the Earth is a wasteland, decimated by nuclear fallout. Humanity lives hand-to-mouth, scrounging for water and whatever remnants of their past society they can lay hands upon. We follow orphaned ‘Kid’ (Munro Chambers) as he befriends curious wasteland oddball, Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), and tough-as-old-boots water scavenger Frederic (Aaron Jeffery). Pursued by feral bad buys on bicycles, the Kid stumbles onto a ‘Turbo Suit’, incorporating an explosive power glove, which gives him the ability to take on an evil apocalyptic warlord, Zeus (Michael Ironside), who is making everybody’s life a misery.
Turbo Kid sets out as a low budget, 80s obsessed sci-fi adventure, walking the fine line between comedy and parody. Unfortunately, playing it for laughs means it all too often teeters over the brink into the latter.
The future universe created here is all scrap metal and dirty salvage, populated by a cast of low rent Road Warrior extras. So far, so cliché, but maybe that’s the point? Throw in a trendy synth soundtrack and some 1980s tech, and the lazily contrived picture is almost complete.
The principle mode of transport in Turbo Kid is the bicycle, or more specifically the BMX, which is actually a pretty interesting device. In a parched future wasteland it’s very plausible there be no cars left. Much more so in fact, than the gas guzzling dystopia of Mad Max. But unfortunately it’s impossible to get past the fact that it just looks stupid, giving the movie a feel akin to children’s programming.
Turbo Kid does have its plus points though. First and foremost being Michael Ironside. Although the consummate bad guy character actor is slumming it here, the man has never delivered a poor performance in his life, and Turbo Kid is no exception. If there’s one thing to be thankful to Turbo Kid for, it’s for giving us another great Ironside villain.
Further to its credit, the gore effects are pretty great, and Turbo Kid IS a gory movie. Bad guys get sliced and diced in a number of inventive ways and the blood geysers to the heavens in what can only be homage to the mighty Shogun Assassin. However, the fine line we mentioned earlier gets trampled all over, as the gore gets played out for comedy pratfalls and general stupidity.
The trouble with Turbo Kid, and this kind of retro fetishizing in general, is that it’s nostalgia for something that didn’t exist. What they are actually yearning for is science fiction that doesn’t treat its audience like an idiot. The movies Turbo Kid is trying to ape were never intentionally bad. The effects might look dated now, but they didn’t at the time. This smug nostalgia, viewed with 30-year hindsight, through a spectrum of perceived irony, is what irritates above all else.
Undoubtedly, some folks will be able to have fun with Turbo Kid’s basic silliness, but, at its core, it’s simply a joke. A disappointing parody, which while not a resolutely terrible film, is not a very good one either.
THE REEL SCORE: 5/10