J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sundance ’15: Turbo Kid

We might as well keep plundering the Earth and maybe the current administration is right, we can just relax and stop worrying about the Iranian nuclear program. After all, the late 1990s apocalypse our 1980s exploitation films warned us about never came to fruition. Take a sentimental journey back to those more innocent, alarmist times in Anouk Whissel, François Simard & Yoann-Karl Whissel’s Turbo Kid (trailer here), which screens during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

In the not too distant future, 1997 A.D. to be precise, a handful of BMX bikers roam the wasteland, clashing with the mutant lackeys of the overlord Zeus. The Kid tries to keep to himself, scavenging comic books and Viewmaster slides. At first, he is a bit annoyed when a girl named Apple starts tagging along with him. However, he soon finds he enjoys her sweetly looney company, even when he learns she is a robot. He duly fashions her a garden gnome club as a weapon, but it cannot compare to the turbo powered gauntlet he salvaged from a crashed government transport. Unfortunately, just as they become an effective dynamic duo, Apple is damaged in a dust-up with Zeus’s goons, forcing them on a perilous detour in search of spare parts.

Basically, there are just a few really big laughs in Turbo, unless you dig on ridiculously gory slapstick violence in the Troma tradition, in which case it is fully loaded. You’ll lose track of how many bodies are cleaved apart in bizarre and unlikely ways. It is so over the top, you have to just buy into it on its own terms. As a result, it is almost impossible to envision Turbo playing in a normal neighborhood theater on a sleepy Wednesday afternoon.

Basically, you know Whissel, Simard & Whissel came to play when cult superstar Michael Ironside shows up as the eye-patch wearing Zeus. MacLeod’s Daughters star Aaron Jeffery is also acceptably grizzled as the Kid’s ally, Frederic the Arm-Wrestler (but don’t get too attached to his paws, so to speak). However, you really have to give credit to Laurence Leboeuf for going all in as the super chipper Apple.

If you have a problem with severed limbs and spurting blood than you are way too sheltered for Turbo Kid. However, if you appreciate retro cheesy nostalgia than you will dig the clever details sprinkled throughout the madness. By now, you should know full well whether it is your cup of tea or not (if you’re still unsure, the answer is probably no). For those who enjoy campy gore, it is a lot of good clean fun. Recommended for serious cult film fans, Turbo Kid screens again tonight (1/31) in Salt Lake, as part of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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