Chris Kirby’s review published on Letterboxd:
The 80s homage to almost end all 80s homages.
There have been a lot of movies in recent years that throw back to the pop culture Mecca that is the 1980s. Most of these movies are wholly modern films that reach back in particular aspects. Whether it be atmosphere and aesthetic, references, direct ripoffs or honest homages, all the way down to simply the music. I am fan of many of these films mostly because of the way they marry the new with the old - my extreme fondness for 80s films usually playing a large role but still not the sole basis. But none of these films have ever fully committed themselves to making a true-blue 80s film in this modern day. Even the recent short film Kung Fury, which purports to do just this, is nothing more than references and aesthetic references but throws too much significantly non-80s things into the mix that it just becomes noise on the screen. Noise I found very entertaining but it's still nothing like what the films of the 80s actually were. Enter: Turbo Kid.
Turbo Kid commits to the 80s wholly and earnestly. It doesn't just borrow elements from the 80s films we love, it becomes them. It also wisely integrates pop culture references that play singularly on nostalgic comedy and makes them feel natural within its text. The look and feel, the acting style, the story beats, and oh god, yes, the music- the music is absolutely stellar. This movie genuinely feels like it could have been made in the 80s. If one were to show this film to some young'un who is ignorant of the 80s except in the vaguest sense, one could pass this off as a thirty year old relic...mostly.
The film itself is a riff on the 80s staple Post-Apocalypse film, even going so far as to take place in the "future" of 1997. In this wasteland the people live in fear of Zeus, welcome back Mr. Ironside, and his gang of murderous thugs while water is the scarcest and most precious commodity. The new fun twist is that everyone roams the wasteland on bicycles, typically BMX bikes. This subliminally handles the oft-asked curiosity of, "if it's the post-apocalyptic wasteland...why is everyone cruising in cars when there's little to no gas and acting like they can just pull up to pump when necessary?!" It's also just more fun this way.
The film follows The Kid, played by Munro Chambers who terrifyingly reminds me of a young Ryan Reynolds...in a good way, as he scavenges and survives. Along the way he meets the peculiar girl Apple and then quickly gets in over his head with Zeus.
I was extremely excited to see this movie. This type of stuff is like catnip to me and I just had to see it. What took me by extreme surprise was just how good this film actually is in almost everything it attempts. It commits to the 80s approach and succeeds immensely. The cast is terrific, the pacing is brisk and engaging, it's wholly entertaining, and it became much more than a silly nostalgia flick; it became an 80s movie that I loved. You may have noticed that I keep dropping in "almost"s throughout this write-up. That's because the film holds itself back unbeknownst to itself.
It's obvious what the filmmakers intentions were from the onset. They wanted to make a silly, fun, gory as hell 80s homage. They succeeded. They were aiming for something akin to the other recent Canadian short turned feature film silly, fun, 80s tinged gorefest called Hobo with a Shotgun. This much is apparent from the original short film T Is for Turbo. HwaS is great. I love that movie. But the gore and over top blood and violence worked perfectly in that film. Here it is actually the biggest bane. While making their vision of Turbo Kid, the filmmaking team RKSS accidentally made a genuinely great film. They just didn't realize it and left the ridiculous violence in the film. The gore is unnecessary and detracts as well as distracts from this wonderful 80s film. At first it had the intended effect. It was funny and fun. It fit. Then about halfway through the picture it began to become monotonous and unnecessary. The violence itself fits the film and definitely adds to making the movie all it can be, it's just that the fountains of blood and gimmicks become...gimmicky, and they don't really work in favor of the movie. It was my greatest, and really my only, true disappointment.
The CG is cheap but done in a way that doesn't detract from the film, the eye-roll worthy references that were never a part of 80s movies feel integrated and honest, the acting is wonderful in that 80s kids film way, the characterization is both on point and poignant while still being basic archetypes, the plot beats are cliched but executed well, the cinematography is beautiful with touches of brilliance containing many "perfect shots", and it's just a really good enjoyable movie. Now if only they could get a slightly bigger budget and remake the film without that idiotic violence we could have an undeniably great movie.
I definitely recommend this movie. There's something really special here and the fact it is an 80s film and not just an homage meant something to me. RKSS could definitely go places in the future. I just hope they realize that and avoid gimmicks going forward.