Turbo Kid

Posted by Joel Copling on September 8, 2015

There is a moment of violence within the climactic sequence of carnage that sort of sums up the problem with "Turbo Kid" (a film full to the brim with blood, brains, and body parts). It involves one of the main villain's henchmen being dispatched by way of their own jawbone, which was removed by one of our trio of heroes seconds before, being stabbed through his eye sockets and presumably into his brain. This is, perhaps, the most outlandish moment of gruesome carnage in a movie that was awarded no rating by the MPAA likely for a very good reason, although it isn't the most grotesque and therein lies the problem: This movie constantly fences the line between celebration of the type of cheesy gore that dominated the 80s-era exploitation to which this is a love letter and fetishizing said gore. There is a difference, and this movie is unaware of it.

The issue also comes up a bit earlier when we are faced with the fate of the parents (played by Francois Simard and Anouk Whissell, both of whom are also part of the film's writing/directing trio with Yoann-Karl Whissell) of our protagonist in a flashback that makes love to the images of gruesome violence we see onscreen. The mixture is all wrong, and it can be traced back to the screenplay, which treats everything as some sort of inside joke. It jerked this viewer straight out of the illusion that he was watching an homage to exploitation violence of the "Toxic Avenger" variety and made it harder for him to embrace it for its ambitions.

Our main protagonist, by the way, is never given a proper name, known only as "the Kid" to those who also inhabit the wasteland that is our setting (Amusingly, opening narration informs us that this dystopian future is the year 1997). The Kid (Munro Chambers) whiles away the days scavenging for anything he can find in this wasteland. One day, he meets Apple (Laurence Lebouef, in a supremely annoying performance that only once ingratiates itself to the audience, even after an important revelation about the character clarifies the oddball behavior) at an abandoned playground. They become fast friends until some of Zeus' (Michael Ironside) henchmen (including one with wild eyes peering out from behind a skeleton mask) capture Apple and intend to kill her.

That's when the Kid discovers a suit that bears a striking resemblance to a hero in his favorite comic book. He dons the outfit, which comes complete with a glove that can zap its victims into a jelly, and rushes to save her, helped by another captive, Frederic (Aaron Jeffery). It is here where the villainous plot is revealed--a plot so outrageously ludicrous that laughing aloud at the grotesque nature of it, played at exactly the right crossroads between horror and kitsch, is nearly enough to pull the movie through its rough patches. I won't reveal the plan, which would be an act worth criminal prosecution, but it's enough to make one wish that its most important attribute was elsewhere mastered.

That, of course, is tone, which is crucial to perfect in movies like this. This one fails at its central task of balancing satire with savagery, tipping too far in each direction at inopportune moments (such as the flashback involving the Kid's parents being played for humor or Zeus' ludicrous secret being played too seriously). The performances, except for Lebouef's, are all uniformly fine, but this is not an actor's show. "Turbo Kid" ultimately belongs to a screenplay that falls short of its intended target when it isn't over-reaching with carnage that is sometimes just simply cruel.

Film Information

Munro Chambers (The Kid), Laurence Lebouef (Apple), Michael Ironside (Zeus), Aaron Jeffery (Frederic), Edwin Wright (Skeletron), Francois Simard (The Father), Anouk Whissell (The Mother).

Directed and written by Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell.

No MPAA rating.

93 minutes.

Released in select cities on August 28, 2015.