Turbo Kid (movie review)

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Trying to successfully mashup multiple genres in film is never an easy task. And yet, the best way to describe Turbo Kid, a selection at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, is a post-apocalyptic action horror romance (try and say that three times fast). But perhaps surprisingly, this unconventional mishmash of genres and their related conventions somehow manage to take the best of each, creating a wholly unique and entertaining fusion of a film.

Set in the dystopian future of 1997, the film opens on a world where the world has suffered through a terrible, undefined cataclysm, and water is now the scarce resource that everyone fights over (I did mention the genre conventions, right?). Amidst this backdrop of despair, a young unnamed kid and comic book aficionado (Munro Chambers) tries to survive, scavenging for scraps from the bodies of the dead, and trading rodents he traps for precious bottles of drinking water. During one of his scavenging trips, he happens upon Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), an ever smiling, optimistic young girl, who takes an immediate liking to him. In romantic comedy parlance, this would be called the “meet cute. She follows him back to his hideout and tags along with him as he tries to teach her the rules for survival in this wasteland.

In parallel, there is a separate storyline that follows Frederic (Aaron Jeffrey), a loner “cowboy” type who is searching for a new water source, much to the chagrin of the local warlord leader Zeus (the always captivating Michael Ironside), who wants to control all the water in the area. Not surprisingly, these two storylines soon intersect, with the Kid, Apple and Frederic trapped in an arena (somewhat fittingly located in an empty public pool) where they are forced to fight for their lives. It is during these fight scenes that the gore factor is ramped up, with multiple severed torsos, gouged out eyes, and copious amounts of viscera. To be clear, Turbo Kid is not for the faint of heart. And yet, the movie itself, in its quieter moments, shows a great deal of heart. Apple may be the prototypical manic pixie dream girl, but the growth of her relationship with The Kid over the course of the film is fully earned, and completely authentic. As is the grudging admiration that develops between Frederic and The Kid.

It may sound like I’m criticizing Turbo Kid for utilizing so many clichés of these genres. But in truth, I am genuinely impressed at how effectively the filmmakers were able to successfully blend these familiar character archetypes and stories into something that felt wholly original. In a lot of ways, watching Turbo Kid was like watching a chef take familiar ingredients that you know and love, and turn them into something truly unique.

By no means is Turbo Kid for everyone. If you have a weak stomach for gore and blood, then you probably won’t be able to keep it together long enough for the film’s more tender moments. And if you’re looking for a straight up action splatterfest, then the reflective scenes between the main characters will likely bore. But those who are willing to sample something a little different from the usual Hollywood fare will likely be very pleasantly surprised.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Atoms

To find out where Turbo Kid is playing near you, visit Turbo-Kid.com.

NR 4 Atoms - B(1)

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