Turbo Kid is like no other film I've seen all year. It's a throwback to 1980's post apocalyptic action films but it also feels very fresh and vibrant. It follows a young man who lives in the Wasteland and one day finds a suit that gives him superhero like powers (kind of). Now known as Turbo Kid, he sets off to save his new found friend, Apple, and fight a tyrannical maniac.
Turbo Kid is very self aware and knows exactly what it's doing. It walks a fine line and pays homage to the 1980's in a brilliant way that never feels forced or cheesy or too obvious. And yet, it does all of those things. That may sound nonsensical but the secret to this films success is the excellent cast that it has assembled. It's the main focus of my review because if even one character were played differently I don't think the film would have worked as well as it did.
The 1980's was a big decade. Everything was big: the hair, the music, the movies, the money. And Turbo Kid is full of big performances within a big concept. Everything compliments everything here, right down to the big pulse pounding synth score that rides smoothly under the colorful images on the screen.
The casting here is key. Michael Ironside as the main villain is a brilliant choice because the man just exudes that big evil crime boss feel. His natural bad guy glare works overtime here and puts a visual to his bad guy personality. One look at him and you know he's bad news, and all of this with only one eye as the other is covered with a patch. Munro Chambers is perfect as Turbo Kid, he has a slightly boyish face and knows how to utilize it to enhance his lingering innocence as he reads of superheroes in comic books with youthful enthusiasm. He also knows how to express reaction to the dark side of life in the Wasteland and by the end of the movie there is an obvious change in Turbo Kid and Chambers already seems more grown up. Finally we have Laurence Leboeuf as Apple. It didn't take long for her over the top exuberance and constant big smile to win me over. She is exceedingly expressive, energetic and charming and has the most stunning eyes I've ever seen on film. Even Edwin Wright as evil, silent henchman Skeletron makes the best of his character. Besides glaring out of his Quiet Riot like mask, he is very twitchy and quick with his movements and that adds immensely to his madman image.
Perhaps the smartest move the film makes is to keep Turbo Kid himself, surrounded by this big world with big characters, small. He is not a big character with a big personality, he simply has a big destiny. In that way he reminds me of Luke Skywalker.
What makes Turbo Kid ultimately work is it's heart, superb cast, and attention to minor details. The classic 1980's Viewfinder that they look through with wonder, the big plastic spokes on the wheels of Turbo Kids BMX, the Nintendo like sound effects that accompany every bleep and bloop of technology and blast from Turbo Kids glove are very charming and intoxicating. It creates not only a world for these characters but an atmosphere to go with it, an atmosphere that many viewers find nostalgic and comforting yet just far enough away from that it feels like a distant and unrecognizable existence.
This movie believes in what it's doing and what it's going for, and that makes it easy for an audience to get swept up in it and feel the same way. Turbo Kid felt more like an experience than a movie, more like witnessing the lives of these people than watching a story, and to me that's as good as movies get.