Turbo Kid is set in the far flung, post apocalyptic future of 1997… That alone should get you on the right wavelength for what this puppy is serving up, which is an unmitigated nostalgia bomb to your dome for roughly 90 minutes. Everything about this movie is a love letter to late 80’s/early 90’s kids. If you are one of those, just go ahead and assume there is value for you here. If not, then try it out and see how it feels. Either way, you should do that before reading on through this spoiler riddled review, where, for the record, we will try to jam this decidedly fringe candidate into the horror genre. I’m sure results will vary on that front. Have fun. Things are about to get Rad.
Reviewed by: Jake
Welcome to the future, kids. The year is 1997 and the world has been totally ravaged by an unnamed nuclear war taking place before the events of the movie. Few have survived and those who have managed to eek out an existence do so by scavenging the wasteland and selling knick-knicks and nudie pens for potable water. Our hero, known only as “The Kid” (Munro Chambers) is a comic book obsessed teenager who has managed to get by due to some tubular bmx skills and just enough strength to hunt highly irradiated rats. He lives by himself in what seems to be a fairly well guarded bunker, indicating that he might have been pretty good at Fallout, had the game existed in the… er… future.
The Kid models himself after a comic superhero named Turbo Rider, who from the look of it was basically a Tron character dressed in a rainbow colored set of foam armor. TR’s killer selling point was his ability to liquify human bodies with a glove closely resembling a certain piece of shit Nintendo product. In his travels, The Kid runs across Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), a psychotically free-spirited young lass who basically stalks him into submission. Naturally, the two become friends. From here, the movie really gets moving quickly, so I’m going to blow through this in kind. A dictatorial fuck named Zeus (Michael Ironside) is taking over more of the wasteland and rules with the iron-sawed hand of one of his cronies, named Skeletron (Edwin Wright). Zeus has a machine that turns bodies into water,which he then sells back to the inhabitants of the waste. If you cross him, you become drinking water. The Kid, Apple, and a loner Aussie ranger-type named Frederic (Aaron Jeffery) get caught up in the mess, destroy his water machine, and spend the rest of the movie being chased down by Zeus & co.
In the process, we learn that Apple isn’t as crazy as she appears because she’s a fucking robot. This doesn’t prevent The Kid from kind of wanting to tap that in the typical, confused teen sort of way. Apple gets killed roughly a bajillion times in this movie, but no one said there aren’t perks to being a robot. The Kid also stumbles upon the hidden grave of the real deal Turbo Rider and assumes control of his Nintendo accessory, eventually evaporating all who cross him with the exception of Zeus, who we discover is also a robot. They kill him with explosion instead, uncovering a new source of clean water and saving the wasteland. Synth music abounds. Yeah 90’s!
What the Movie Does Right
This movie is a toy box. That’s the best way I can describe it. It feels kitschy and there are a lot of things that don’t really fit, but when you’re trying to have fun on a boring summer day in the early 90’s, you figure out ways to make sure the superhero, robot and Indiana Jones action figures all make sense together in that sandbox, goddamn it. And when you’re done, you’ll ride your BMX around for a bit and take it off a few gnarly kickers.
This is all to say the primary thing Turbo Kid has going for it is how fun it is. I’m aware there is a heavy amount of age related bias in play here because this pretty much encapsulates the culture of my early childhood, but the scene is painted so well in this film that even if you didn’t spend some of your formative years during the era to which this is paying homage, you will be able to appreciate the love letter for what it is. Because what it is is badass.
The other major win for this movie is its extremely over-the-top violence and effects. There is an overwhelming amount of well-handled practical in this film that just pumps buckets of blood and viscera at the screen for a good portion of the runtime.
Finally, I feel that it’s worth mentioning the acting. While extremely over the top, the characters all serve their roles extremely well, cheeseball though they may be. I don’t care what anyone says, the reveal that Apple is a robot was one of those that made so much sense but I in no way saw coming.
Also, there is now this, which is righteous. By the way, the soundtrack to this movie is amazing:
What the Movie Does Wrong
Honestly, not an overwhelming amount. The obvious one here is the CG. While the preponderance of the movie is handled with practical, there are elements of CG that look fucking terrible. I’m torn on this one because I think it looks objectively shitty, but it mostly fits right in with the ridiculous world that has been created. Alas, I don’t award bad computer graphics points, period.
It's also worth mentioning that while I think this should be a movie people can understand and appreciate for what it is, even if they weren’t growing up in the early 90’s, I use the word “appreciate” quite literally. This is a VERY specific movie, and there are groups of people out there that would probably not care too much for its schtick. Seriously, pop this fucker on for the 70 year old(s) in your life and see how it goes over.
Finally, this is more something we did wrong than the movie, but this is very difficult to pot cleanly in the horror genre. The dystopian nuclear wasteland is a bit unsettling and the immense violence and gore are certainly horror-worthy elements, but if you are looking to be scared shitless, turn around and walk away. Genre fans will absolutely find this to be worth the time, though.
Story: 6.5 - There isn’t much of a story here of any substantial weight. This movie is about a kid who likes superheroes fighting back against an oppressive dickhead who turns people into water that he rations to the fearful masses. There’s a revenge element and a post apocalypse to be dealt with, but the drama is not of Shakespearean proportions here, guys. This is more junk food than Sauvignon Blanc.
World-Building / Immersion: 8 - now we’re talking! I’ve already mentioned this movie is a love letter to an era. It does an exceptional job of building that world and paying attention to the details with a ton of little nods that, if you lived through the period, make you shake your head in nostalgic agreement. Plus, there’s a notable immersive quality to the relentless uber violence on display. Or I’m just really messed up… Maybe both?
Scare-Factor: 2.5 - this is a dystopian world brought about by nuclear destruction. That’s a relatively disturbing concept, but not scary. There is a ton of gore here, as well. This is probably the more horrorish thing the flick has going for it, but ultimately it can’t score highly here because it’s not really a true horror movie.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 8.5 - Both the visual and sound effects are great in this film. The gore is incredible in a splatstick sort of way, and the soundtrack is nostalgic and rocking. Most of the audio effects are great as well. This is only losing points for terrible CG because no matter how well they fit, I am incapable of giving points to bad looking computer work.
Overall: 6.5 - I really enjoy this movie. My enjoyment of it is greater than this score indicates and honestly, this is a better movie than a 6.5. But we rate horror movies on this site. I still wholeheartedly recommend seeing the movie, especially if you are a millennial like me and want to feel nostalgic for a simpler time.