The most critical element of telling a story that isn’t grounded in everyday reality is to clearly establish the rules of the world we are entering. Let Turbo Kid, a nostalgic sci-fi movie set in a dystopian 1997, be the textbook example of how to do this well. This is not a moody apocalyptic slog, or even an attempt to paint the future as some sort of warning of our current state. This is a campy, gory, comical, self-aware thrill ride that embraces movies as a way to have an absolute blast for 90 minutes.
The story itself is pretty standard stuff. A lone, heroic kid takes down the forces of evil. It’s the execution, and the intentional absurdity, that make this such a worthwhile journey. The attention to detail here is impeccable, utilizing all kinds of goofy elements, and many nostalgic insertions, to get the point across. A heroine is introduced in the form of Apple (Laurence LaBoeuf), and her zaniness is something I was fully prepared to be irritated by, but instead manages to be endearing and fun. The villain, Zeus (Michael Ironside) is just as fun, self aware pure evil. With both of these characters, there is more than meets the eye, more to be revealed, and a journey ahead of us.
Turbo Kid is not a mainstream crowd pleaser, it’s a cult movie fan’s dream wrapped up in a brand new package.
For as much as I mentioned the overall story is straightforward, the film has its fair share of twists and unexpected turns, many of which riskily pay off. These are the types of decisions only seen in an independent film not clouded by what they think an audience can digest. And on that note, it’s an absolute gorefest in the best way possible, with plenty of bloody violence that manages to be funny because of how it’s established. As someone who normally finds comic violence deplorable, here is the rare anomaly that manages to land well.
The film played as a midnight movie at Sundance, and is already on its way to becoming the first major attempt at a cult movie in a while. The first sign of a midnight movie is its potential for audience involvement. First, the cosplay potential here is the no-brainer. I saw the film at during Sundance NextFest, and the audience embraced the fact that the film had 17 (count ‘em, 17) production companies listed before the movie began! Not much more can show how independent or grassroots a film is. How awesome is it than an audience can embrace this with a fun tradition in the making? If you see it in a theater, be sure to pass this along.
Turbo Kid is not a mainstream crowd pleaser, it’s a cult movie fan’s dream wrapped up in a brand new package. If this seems like your cup of tea you will love it. If it isn’t, then you may still find value in it regardless.
Turbo Kid opens in select theaters this Friday.