A nuclear war has decimated the planet. With clean water a scarce resource, one encampment relies on a supply controlled by one-eyed Warlord Zeus and his BMX biker gang. As the water grows dirtier and the prices rise, a young scavenger and a water-hunting cowboy might be the only hope for the last vestiges of humanity in a wasteland that looks suspiciously like rural Quebec.
Expanded from a five-minute short pitched for the “ABCs of Death 2” indie anthology of horror comedy, and funded entirely by an Indiegogo project, “Turbo Kid” delivers all the camp of ‘80s eccentricity on a budget as desolate as its post-apocalyptic setting. The film, directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell, had a budget just under 60,000 dollars and stars mainly newcomers. Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, and Aaron Jeffrey play the three central protagonists, with Michael Ironside anchoring the film as the villain, Zeus.
While the film plays into ‘80s narrative tropes, it imbues them with a distinctly modern energy. The story follows an orphaned comic book enthusiast (Chambers) living in the nuclear wasteland of what may have once been Quebec. The appearance of the mysterious Apple (Leboeuf) disrupts his reclusive habits and forces him into a friendship. Of course, Apple is soon abducted by a henchman of Zeus to be a participant in a gGladiator-style tournament with a particularly morbid twist. When Chambers’ character stumbles across the very weapon his favorite comic-book hero “Turboman” wields, he sees the opportunity to exact revenge on Zeus for the murder of his parents and free his only friend. Together with fellow gladiator and town hero Frederic (Jeffrey), the pair must destroy Zeus, his army, and his deadly water plant.
“Turbo Kid’s” nostalgia for the aesthetic gloss of the ‘80s manifests in its presentation as well as its plot. The original soundtrack is synthetic perfection, and even the green haze of Wasteland color grading can’t entirely smother the neon wardrobes of the protagonists or the rich red of the frequent bloodshed. The infectious joy of “Turbo Kid,” juxtaposed with its maniacal use of practical gore effects equal parts brutal and camp, ultimately makes the movie a success. The movie stays true to the ‘80s both visually and thematically—perhaps to a fault.
The commentary on ‘80s military aggression repurposed as popular culture provides depth to the film. However, “Turbo Kid” unapologetically fails the Bechdel test and stars a man killing other men to avenge his mother and Apple. But truthfully, is it fair to demand anything else from an homage to a time in the US when people stopped looking to the future and began living as though they were already in it?
“Turbo Kid” is available on Netflix.