With all of the local films the festival shows, the festival tries to find at least one slightly more conventional film that rarely gets shown here. Last year, it was the academy award nominated Boyhood. This year, it is the deliciously gory, action packed superhero flick Turbo Kid. From a series of art house films and documentaries of social issues, YKIFF takes a u turn with a love letter to the 80s and 90s.
The film takes place in the distant year of…1997. The world has turned into a nuclear wasteland. Acid rain has made the water toxic. Scarcity has led to war amongst nations. And now humanity had devolved into a steampunk version of the Roman Empire, with the world ruled by the iron fist of the one-eyed tyrant Zeus (sci-fi legend Michael Ironside). In the wreckage is the Kid (Munro Chambers), an unassuming teenage boy who against the odds, survives. When not hunting for junk and mutant animals to sell, the Kid spends his days collecting rubix cubes and plastic flamingos. His underground shelter is a domain of 80s nostalgia, from a Walkman to the comic books. He especially idolizes comic book superhero Turbo Rider and does try to imitate him. But he’s still a meek kid in a post-apocalyptic world.
Then along comes Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), a crazy eyed mysterious girl with a neon coloured hair style resembling Gem and the Holograms. With a child-like enthusiasm, Apple takes to the Kid’s toys with awe, especially the view master. Though the Kid’s taken aback by her weirdness, He starts to warm to her. She’s especially adorable with her weapon; a baseball bat with a garden gnome taped to it. And then she gets kidnapped.
Fortunately, the Kid finds help when he falls into a manhole. There he finds a buried spaceship, with the costume of Turbo Rider. With the use of a laser-shooting suit and the help of rogue cowboy Frederic (Aaron Jeffery), the Kid will finally have what it takes to be like the heroes of the comics in order to defeat Zeus, rescue Apple and save the world. Plus, Turbo Kid will have a chance to settle a personal score with Zeus.
Turbo Kid takes the post-apocalyptic wasteland and stretches it to the most over the top and absurd level possible. You want a motorcycle chase you often see in these movies? Too bad, because nearly everyone rides bicycles. It’s especially helpful with electricity, which is bicycle powered. What is the world to do with no clean water? Drain the water from corpses and drink it, of course. You want to make an arm wrestling match more badass? Place steaming toasters on each end so the loser literally feels the burn.
The film especially pulls no punches on the fight scenes, which delivers blood and guts in the most glorious way possible. With gladiator death matches and Turbo Kid’s laser beams, blood sprays all over the set and limbs get hacked off. Writers-Directors Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell come up with the most hilarious way to for people to dismember other people. The most notable is the character of Skeletron (Edwin Wright), Zeus’ silent henchman whose arms shoot out buzz saw blades. In one glorious scene, a gladiator’s head literally goes spinning when the top half gets hacked.
With all of this outrageous violence, a film faces the danger of either coming off as too silly or too exploitative. That’s where the Kid and Apple come in. As the Kid, Chambers makes an excellent straight man for the craziness of his environment and is likeable as a superhero. He keeps the film grounded enough. Lebeouf’s Apple conveys a wide eyed innocence that gives the movie lots of heart. Even when she’s bashing heads with her gnome bat, her innocence is both hilarious and sweet. Sure, she comes off as cray cray, but the film just wouldn’t be the same without her. Eventually, a revelation will make it understandable why she’s so crazy.
You can feel an aura of love Sirmard and the Whissells put into Turbo Kid. You can feel their love for science fiction, paying tribute to everything from Mad Max to Soylent Green. You can feel their love for the 80s, with Turbo Kid’s bright red colours and the synthetic score from Jean-Philippe Bernier, Jean-Nicolas Leupi and Le Matos. Most of all, you can feel their love for their character, all entertaining and awesome. The audience returns the favour with love for this movie. They love the creative depiction of the environment. They love the gory and exciting fight scenes. They also love the characters, from geek hero Kid to the dastardly Zeus, a fast food role Ironside dines on as if it were a filet mignon. I hope that in time, this film with gain a cult following, alongside fellow 80s tribute Kung Fury.
Producer Anne-Marie Gelinas did a Q & A, where she dished out some behind the scenes dirt. Turns out in the original script, the world was supposed to have water. But the set had a lot of rain, so they improvised. She also hosted a workshop about co-producing for other nations.
 If I didn’t have my notes, I would have almost written Turbo Man. I was probably having flashbacks to Jingle All the Way.