It’s a semi-desolate wasteland set in 1997. The Kid (Munro Chambers), who is obsessed with the Turbo Rider comic book character, rides a BMX bike while scavenging for items of value. He finds a few things and takes them to water dealer Bagu (Romano Orzari) and exchanges the items for a bottle of water and a Turbo Rider comic book. The Kid runs into Frederick the Cowboy (Aaron Jeffery), an undefeated arm-wrestler and overall good guy.
The Kid takes off and while he sits on a swing in an abandoned playground, he meets a super friendly young woman, Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), who slaps a tracking bracelet on him immediately. The kid, unsure about his new friend, takes off to his underground bunker where he bumps his head and passes out. Meanwhile, Zeus (Michael Ironside), an evil water hoarder, looks on while his silent but deadly side-kick Skeletron ( Edwin Wright) tortures Frederick’s brother in order to find out Frederick’s whereabouts.
The Kid awakes to find Apple in his bunker and after some convincing on her part, they become friends and set off for more scavenging. Along the way, they encounter a guy who kidnaps Apple and chases The Kid off. The Kid falls through a hatch door only to find himself in the Turbo Rider space craft. He dons the Turbo Rider’s suit, straps on the turbo wrist weapon, and sets of to rescue Apple who is being held at Zeus’ lair.
When he arrives, he finds Frederick has been captured as well and they are being held in an empty pool they use to watch people fight to the death. The three band together and fight to escape the pool and get away. They split up and don’t get very far when The Kid realizes Apple is a robot and her power is draining. In order to save her, they must get to the robot cemetery for parts.
The Kid and Apple get into a fight with Skeletron who cuts off Apple’s head. The Kid takes it to the cemetery and duct tapes her head onto another robot but she doesn’t come back to life. He realizes Zeus and Skeletron are the ones who killed his parents so he leaves to get revenge. He teams up with Frederick who has learned his brother was killed by Zeus and Skeletron.
Frederick and The Kid end up in an open area surrounded by Zeus, Skeletron, and a bunch of fighters. As they battle, Apple shows up to help. The battle of all battles happens and just when they think they’re getting the upper hand with Zeus, it’s revealed he is a robot, too. Apple doesn’t make it through the battle, so The Kid takes and buries her at the playground where they met. Frederick and The Kid part ways…
What I Liked
First, this film starts with an 80s hard rock song (Thunder in Your Heart by John Farnham) which instantly transported me back in time and reminded me of similar songs and singers I thought were so cool of the time. (Push It To The Limit, Paul Engemann, Scarface, 1983; Far From Over, Frank Stallone, Stayin’ Alive, 1977) I LOVE the fact it’s set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and EVERYONE is on BMX bikes. Well, some are on adult size tricycles–but mostly BMX. Some of the chase sequences are so awesome because if you’ve ever ridden a BMX bike, you’ll know how much energy it takes to ride one, let along try to escape from a group of people after you. (This also transported me to scenes in my head from E.T. and The Goonies for the BMX bike chase scenes.)
The post-apocalyptic costumes for the bad guys are so much more realistic of things they would find scavenging and then piece together to wear for armor and functionality. I found myself really checking out the armor looking to see if I could identify the origin of the pieces they used. The Kid had his red monotone Turbo costume with matching helmet, Apple with her white hair and blue jumpsuit, and Frederick in his cowboy ensemble and hat. Very specific and clear vision of good and evil just by looking at them.
Same with the general scenery of specific locations. Zeus’ hangout, for example, used to be something of a public pool/ community center. So, the graffiti on the outside says, “Poo Party” and it looks like people have been “using” it for a long time with the killing/fighting games. Bagu’s exchange location reminded of Erector building sets on a larger scale. And The Kid’s underground bunker was very much like what a bunker decorated by a kid would look like. The detail involved down to the box of “Soleil Vert” cereal Apple lifts up was perfection. As soon as I saw it, I exclaimed, “Hey, Soylent Green!”
I love violence; which is actually pretty tame in this film. People fight but it’s all choreographed in a way that looks simple but is actually set up for the blood fest effects to be at maximum. The practical gore effects are in full force but since they happen in broad daylight–it keeps an over the top camp feel about it- so even people who don’t like gory movies can watch this and have a good time. Clever kills involve a bicycle attached to intestines (Zeus: “Do you know how long it took to set this up?”), the flying blades from Skeletron, the turbo blasts from The Kid, and people being cut in half only to find themselves on top of someone else. I heard myself cheering every time a new and hilarious kill occurred. I also wondered what Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Tom Savini would say after watching this. I feel like they would sign up immediately as producers of the sequel just to be a part of it.
The characters were well developed with solid backstories and I rooted for all of them. Even Zeus and Skeletron. Flashbacks were revealed at just the right time to understand how The Kid ended up on his own and how Zeus go this eye patch. I would’ve liked to know more about Frederick and why Zeus was after him but the film gave enough to be satisfied.
What I Wished Was Better
I kind of said it already about Frederick’s back story…
I don’t know how I missed this when it came out in 2015, other than just being so busy and not having time to see movies. It didn’t have a wide release which may have had something to do with it as well. Turbo Kid should be used in film schools as a lesson in how a small budget film ($60,000 CAN/ $43,000 US) with strong story, clever use of location and resources, and plenty of “blood” can be made and made well. A new favorite for me! Available on Tubi (with commercials) or on Amazon (for rent). Watch the trailer below:
Fun Facts: This film is a full length adaption of the short film, T is For Turbo. This film is chock full of 80s references to music (Thunder in Your Heart), slang (“rad”), movies (The Karate Kid “Strike first. Strike hard. Show no mercy.”), and video games (Apple’s energy bar from The Legend of Zelda). And BMX bikes.