The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Turbo Kid

In the 1980s, video store shelves overflowed with cheesy action and science-fiction movies. Many of them were cheaply produced specifically for the home video market, to meet the high demand for product. The boxes would have enticing artwork and catchy titles; the tapes inside of them often disappointed with their lame content. And yet, those of us who grew up in that time maintain a certain nostalgia for those pictures, which frequently provided unintentional laughter. The makers of Turbo Kid share that nostalgia. Their film is conceived as an homage to '80s dreck.

The story is set in post-apocalyptic 1997. “The Kid” (Munro Chambers) is a teenage boy who wanders the wasteland on a BMX bike scavenging for items he can sell or, even better, trade for issues of his favorite comic book, Turbo Man. One day, he meets a young woman named Apple (Laurence Labeouf). She's like a chihuahua – annoyingly chipper and over-enthusiastic about everything. Together they take on the madman Zeus (Michael Ironside), who controls the only supply of water and also has a connection to the Kid's past. He's a tough guy to battle, but the Kid stumbles across the downed aircraft of what appears to be a real-life Turbo Man. Now armed with a fancy costume and a power glove that shoots deadly blasts of energy, he's ready for war.

From the very beginning, Turbo Kid announces itself as a loving salute to both '80s cinematic kitsch and post-apocalyptic cinema in general. The film features an era-appropriate goofy synthesizer score, as well as a corny theme song called “Thunder In Your Heart.” It works hard to appropriate the visual aesthetic of the films it's paying tribute to, utilizing special effects that are good but not too good. There are additionally a lot of nods to George Miller's (excellent) original Mad Max trilogy and the myriad terrible knockoffs it inspired, with gangs of masked villains roaming around dusty landscapes wielding homemade weapons. To its credit, not once does Turbo Kid ever seem to mock its inspirations. This lack of cynicism infuses the picture with a sense of light-hearted fun.

Paying tribute to the less-than-exemplary genre movies of a previous era can be a dicey proposition. Do it right and you capture some sort of nostalgic magic. Do it poorly and you're left with a one-joke effort that quickly wears out its welcome. Turbo Kid mostly gets things right. Some of that is due to the performances. The actors really get the idea and make the most of it. Munro Chambers exudes a young Ryan Reynolds vibe, especially in the scenes where the Kid is being sarcastic, while Laurence Labeouf earns laughs as the perpetually cheerful Apple. How she remains so upbeat when the world around her has become a wasteland is one of the movie's most sly jokes. Michael Ironside, meanwhile, obviously relishes the opportunity to portray Zeus. The actor delightfully satirizes the kind of broad, sneering villains that – let's face it – he's played in more than a few films over the years.

Turbo Kid also contains some of the most imaginatively over-the-top comic gore ever put on screen. One character has his jaw ripped off, then shoved into his eyeballs, for instance. And you should see what an umbrella is used for! It's strangely admirable how many gruesome ways the filmmakers devise to kill off their characters. While exceptionally graphic, the violence is never off-putting because it's done with such outrageousness. Directors Francois Simard, Anouk Wissell, and Yoann-Karl Wissell (collectively known as Road Kill Super Stars) crank the bloodshed up to levels the makers of those '80s action pictures only wish they could have gotten away with. Many of the movie's most successful gags come from the juxtaposition of the squeaky-clean teen-hero plot and the hardcore violence that periodically corrupts it.

Of course, you can only go so far with a movie whose primary intention is to riff on cornball older movies. You're not going to get Mad Max: Fury Road out of a picture like this. That's okay, because Turbo Kid accomplishes what it sets out to do with style, charm, and wit. This is the best darn cheesy, low-budget '80s sci-fi flick that wasn't actually made in that decade.

( out of four)

Note: To locate a theater near you where Turbo Kid is playing, please visit

Turbo Kid is unrated, but contains profanity and staggering amounts of graphic violence. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.

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