Pop quiz! Because I think all film reviews should start with a test.
Which of these are actual movies?
- A. Warriors of the Wasteland
- B. Warriors of the Apocalypse
- C. Exterminators of the Year 3000
- D: 1990: The Bronx Warriors
- E. After the Fall of New York
- F. None of the above
- G. All of the above
- H. Who cares? Just get on with it.
If you answered anything except F, you’re right! And if you’ve actually seen two or three of those wonderfully terrible (and frequently Italian) movies that were clearly inspired by George Miller’s Mad Max (1979) and Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior (1981), then there’s a very good chance you’ll have a b-movie ball with Turbo Kid, a post-apocalyptic homage that’s kitschy on purpose (which is sort of easy), very funny on its own merits (which is not), and actually sort of sweet — which is practically unheard of when you’re dealing with this particular sub-genre.
Turbo Kid spins the yarn of a resourceful teenager who lives all alone in the barren and windswept landscape that is post-apocalyptic 1997; how he befriends a strange, loyal, and sort of clueless young woman; and how he manages to invoke the wrath of numerous evil thugs with sharp weapons who are controlled by malevolent warlord played by Michael Ironside. (See? Already you know if you’re in or you’re out on Turbo Kid. But wait! It gets better!)
It’s not all that difficult to look at the films mentioned in our pop quiz (see above) and decide to make fun of them. Virtually all of the early-’80s post-apocalyptic knock-offs were low-budget, low-rent, and beholden to much better films. (1987’s World Gone Wild is actually pretty cool though.) But what elevates Turbo Kid beyond the status of a simple spoof or clever satire is its exuberant energy, its almost tangible affection for the goofiest of pop culture minutiae, and its obvious intent on adding a dash of charm and character into a setting that’s generally little more twisted metal, sandy hills, and abandoned foundries.
Even more amusing: just when The Kid (Munro Chambers) makes friends with a mysterious, frustrating, oddly charming woman called Apple — and the movie almost becomes too cute — the evil water hoarder known as Zeus (Ironside, awesome as ever) sets his sights on our two heroes, and that’s when Turbo Kid hits the gas pedal on all sorts of crazy chases, wild brawls, and enough creative carnage to fill at least three slasher movies. Also there’s a power suit that gives The Kid special lasers and stuff. It’s really neat.
It’s the wide array of film, television, and pop culture influences that prevents Turbo Kid from becoming a one-note satire, and it’s the unpredictable nature of the flick that keeps it fun even if you’ve never seen those movies we covered in that awesome pop quiz. It doesn’t hurt that Mr. Munro makes for an affable little hero, nor that Laurence Leboeuf (as the unflappable Apple) is as funny as she is adorable (which is a lot) — plus I believe I mentioned the presence of a certain Mr. Ironside, one of the gruffest, toughest, and most ass-kickingly awesome character actors ever born. The man has played this precise role in several straight-faced post-apocalyptic b-movies, so obviously it’s great to see the man poke a little fun at this ancient relic of a sub-genre.
Suffice to say there’s a whole lot to like about Turbo Kid, particularly if you’re old enough to remember (or at least appreciate) the lower-end genre films of the 1980s. Kudos to the three-headed writer / director team of Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell for not only lampooning the silliness of these movies so darn well, but also for doing it with some actual heart.
Basically, Turbo Kid feels like it’d make for a great triple-feature with recent 1980s throwbacks like Manborg and Wolfcop; wild, wacky genre satires that may seem really silly on the surface, but also spring from a deep, sincere, and unyielding affection for the b-movies we loved when we were young — and there’s nothing silly about that.
4.5 out of 5 post-apocalyptic, turbo-powered Apple burritos
You want more SXSW coverage besides Turbo Kid?? We got plenty. Click here.