Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #473
Number of Views: One
Release Date: January 26, 2015 (Sundance Film Festival), August 28, 2015 (United States)
Country of Origin: Canada, New Zealand
Running Time: 95 minutes
Directors: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Producers: Benoit Beaulieu, Anne-Marie Gélinas, Tim Riley, Ant Timpson
Screenplay: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Special Effects: Eric Thivierge
Visual Effects: Jean-François Ferland, Luke Haigh, Maxime Lapointe
Cinematography: Jean-Philippe Bernier
Score: Jean-Philippe Bernier, Jean-Nicolas Leupi
Editing: Luke Haigh
Studios: EMA Films, Timpson Films
Distributor: Epic Pictures Group
Stars: Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Edwin Wright, Aaron Jeffery, Romano Orzari, Orphée Ladouceur, Steeve Léonard, Yves Corbeil, Evan Manoukian, Anouk Whissell, François Simard, Tyler Hall, Martin Paquette, Pierre Sigouin
Suggested Audio Jukebox
 Le Matos “Rise of Turbo Kid”
 Le Matos vs Joystixx “Planet of Cards”
 Le Matos featuring PAWWS “No Tomorrow”
I’ll always consider myself as a child of the eighties. Despite actually being born in 1974, I possess precious little recollection of any activity before the turn of the decade. However, the very moment they kicked in, I remember pretty much everything with complete clarity. My shiny new 3D Viewmaster, now a forgotten relic, was then cutting age technology. I felt like Richie fucking Rich by the time I acquired my first Gameboy, nothing slimline, we’re talking a block of grey plastic with the ability to play Tetris until my nose bled. Granted, technology has advanced somewhat since then, but I never felt hard done-by because I never knew any different.
Turbo Kid begins way, way in the future. 1997 to be precise. I regret to inform you that the world as we know it has declined considerably during the nineties, and our once bustling metropolis has been reduced to post-apocalyptic dust dunes, severely malnourished and littered with bone fragments and shattered dreams. The film, directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell, better known as the RKSS Collective, chooses not to stray too much from this glorious epoch and sets up its stall in the none too distant future, making it a piece of retro-futuristic entertainment that we can all truly relate to. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the nineties so the barren wasteland actually rang true for me and I can appreciate its irony.
Right off the bat, it feels as though we are about to view a film unlike any other in existence and that is always an encouraging sign. We are introduced to The Kid (Munro Chambers), a comic book aficionado and pretty much regular teen who has managed to keep his head down while the world around him has all but disintegrated. Just like any boy his age, having fun is priority one of one. However, the harsh badlands run red with the blood of non-believers, and he is under no illusion that survival of the fittest applies. Who better to scavenge forgotten relics from yesteryear? Everyday is Christmas day to The Kid, albeit a bleak, dry, desolate Christmas day with disembodied heads on sticks replacing baubles.
It gets mighty lonely out in the wilderness and two-way conversation isn’t exactly available on-tap but regular visits to market keep him compo mentis. Then one day, seemingly much alike any other, he stumbles across a vintage copy of a comic book featuring his most beloved superhero, Turbo Rider and everything turns on a sixpence. Kitted up with all manner of turbo-charged gadgetry, it’s now time for his graduation into manhood. A warrior is born, a savior for humanity, antidote to evil, and the world will soon know of his name. For the time being, however, he is still unaware of his new endowments and, just as he should be learning how to release the safety from his new power glove, his peace and quiet is rudely interrupted.
Enter fun-loving Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), a sweet playful, naïve, and wonderfully quirky bubblegum princess with large revealing eyes you could take eternal hypersleep within, that match her headband and sweat suit perfectly. She takes to The Kid instantly, in the same manner as a terrier would become your BFF once you present it a slab of raw sirloin, and decides that together there’s a whole lot of fun to be had. The Kid is a little more hesitant at first but it isn’t long before Apple has soundly won him over…and us too.
“This is my gnome stick.”
If I were to list the ten most adorable female protagonists in my cinematic memory vaults then our cyber-sweetheart would undoubtedly be sitting pretty at the very apex. She is simply winsome throughout without any exception and somehow, inconceivably, we all fall headlong long before the penny drops for The Kid. It speaks volumes for the power of film when you can actually fall hopelessly in love in 95 minutes. Natalie Portman’s Sam achieved it in Garden State and Lebouef’s Apple does precisely the same here. Let’s not get it twisted, I’m not about to start prowling outside her bedroom window with my fly open and sending her locks of my hair, as it’s not her who holds my heart in her hands. Robots have the softest palms for carrying such a token and Apple’s are reminiscent of the polished fruit from which she leases her fine name. Simply edible.
In the same way that Furiosa overshadowed Mad Max, she does the same thing here and this is in no way a criticism of Chambers’ performance. He is every bit as endearing and, if I was a sweet sixteen-year-old girl with pigtails and an untapped hymen, then I’d be more than happy to loan him my virginity (as long as he gave it back to me). That’s what happens right? Anyhoots, the two of them go together like Sonic and Tails and head off in search of the abominable Doctor Eggman or, in this case, tyrannical overlord Zeus (Michael Ironside). Baron of these barren badlands, it is he that holds all the cards and he that can end your run of good fortune in a fraction of a heartbeat. Need water? You will have to run it by Zeus first. Not pay your taxes? Then it’s off to the gladiatorial pit for you and you’d better pray for a swift demise as it is unlikely he’ll grant one.
Ironside is pure plutonium but, then, was that ever in question? He sits in his top box, surrounded by armored goons, barking orders and all with a mischievous glint in his eye. This treacherous one-eyed autocrat is actually getting a sick kick out of ruling the downtrodden and, in saw-mounted BMX bandit, Skeletron (Edwin Wright), he has himself the ideal smiling assassin.
There is no threat on wheels as interminable as Skeletron and generally the best thing to do if you see his alloy grin is to smash your own teeth out and leave them in a basket by your front door, and hope he takes them as a down-payment. He is mute and I would imagine this is because he has no need to waste words. Zeus is the judge, hell he’s jury too. But Skeletron is the goddamn executioner.
Among those who suffer under his dictatorship is local hero Indy, I mean Frederic (a steely Aaron Jeffery). This rough-edged gun-toting cowboy has particular beef with Zeus after learning of his brother’s harsh treatment and, unwittingly, The Kid and Apple find themselves sharing a death pit with him after spending too long staring into one another’s eyes. Time is a wasting and Zeus is about to unleash the maulers but Turbo Kid ain’t goin’ out like dat. It was around this point that I let pass my first childish squeal of excitement. That’s right, like Starman on rewind, I devolved back into a twelve-year-old whippersnapper and I believe it was then that the RKSS Collective tattooed their name across my heart, with neon marker pens. All that was left was for Apple to blow it a kiss.
To my knowledge at the time of writing, the exact budget is unknown but I would assume it is remarkably modest. What is achieved on scant resources is almost inconceivable as the sandbox presented never feels like a simple patch of land. Jean-Philippe Bernier’s wide framed photography is a joy to our pleasure feelers, while the electronic score courtesy of Le Matos and friends is a thing of almost unparalleled beauty and complements any optical stimuli hand in power glove. The whole kit and caboodle feels lovingly authentic and, at no point, can we not taste the popping candy and hear it crackle in our bulging cheeks.
This is an extraordinary little movie. Many have likened it to Mad Max: Fury Road, with bicycles replacing the armored vehicles, and I can see their logic. However, the two couldn’t actually be farther apart when it comes to how they connect with their audience. Miller’s film is a majestic feast which pummels you into submission with set piece after scintillating set piece until you hold your hands up and say “you got me”. Turbo Kid does nothing of the sort. There is action, plenty of it too, and far more splatter than you will ever have seen coming. But it hits you in the coronary hub with its luminous defibrillator paddles and suddenly the years just begin falling away.
As you will have guessed by now, I love this about it. There’s a child inside locked away you see. Nothing nefarious, I don’t starve him or tie his chains too tight. He is free to roam but only ever in designated areas but the RKSS Collective informed him it was okay to “fly free my pretty”. Just what I needed, a second puberty. Actually, I’m thrilled to my central reactor as I love being a kid again. Besides, it has been years since I fired up my 3D Viewmaster. Once you have let your inner-nipper free, quaint little touches like Apple’s fast depleting love heart stash coerce further happy squeals and suddenly Turbo Kid is a shoe-in for my five favorite all-time movies. Surely I have a complaint. One at least. Okay, well I would have liked to have seen a little more of the charming Orphée Ladouceur as Zeus’ purple rinsed henchwoman. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m really splitting hairs here.
It truly is a delight from primary load to the dreaded game over screen and the first thought in my mind once that moment arrived was “continue”. Moreover, the conclusion takes a turn I didn’t see coming and, after dabbing those tear ducts, I just wanted to reboot the program. So we arrive at the inevitable closing judgement and here I may court a little controversy. I adored Mad Max: Fury Road and fully expect its 9/10 score to mature on subsequent views but here, I’d rather just cut to the chase. For me, a movie attains the much coveted perfect score when it simply couldn’t have been any better. That applies to Turbo Kid, and that’s not to say that everybody will feel the same way as I. The Tin Man won’t. And Lemony Snickets will despise it. But, when I take a look at my life display, and see ten full-bodied hearts flashing back at me affectionately and the reflection of Apple’s bonny face in my power glove, my fate is perpetually sealed.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 10/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: How can a movie celebrate all that is the eighties without a little practical splatter to douse our taste buds? Eric Thivierge is a busy boy as the gore is spraying from virtually every conceivable direction and there’s more than enough flaying gristle to earn most films a hard R-rating. I really haven’t the faintest idea where to begin with regards to the dispatches but can guarantee the splash zone is deep red and a river of grue runs right through it. Decapitation, evisceration, downright obliteration, it’s all here and you can capture every frame in Technicolor if you purchase yourself a state-of-the-art 3D Viewmaster. I’m off to eBay as we speak.
Read Mad Max: Fury Road Appraisal
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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