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The Retro Pastiche of ‘Turbo Kid’

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If you found "Turbo Kid" on a VHS tape in someone's garage you'd probably swear it was a movie from the 1980s and that's just part of its charm.

Show transcript

Welcome back to the KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast I’m Beth Accomando.

If you found Turbo Kid on a VHS tape in someone’s garage you’d probably swear it was a movie from the 1980s. To enhance that feeling, the film opens by designating 1997 as the future.

CLIP open

Turbo Kid is a delightfully and deliberately retro action film that delivers a pop culture cocktail that mixes the kid elements of Japanese TV shows like Power Rangers with the splatter gore of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films and a splash of BMX bike action for added flavor.

The feature’s adapted and expanded from the short film T for Turbo submitted for the ABCs of Death anthology series. At the center of this grungy futuristic tale is The Kid, an orphan who forages around the wasteland for whatever he can find but he’s mostly interested in toys and potential weapons. Like Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy, he likes his cassette tapes of retro pop music. He’s also enamored with a comic.

CLIP reads comic

The Kid fancies himself a loner like the iconic heroes he sees in comics and movies But it’s more posturing than true. So when the relentlessly cheerful Apple tries to befriend him he pretends he doesn’t need anyone, especially not a girl. The contrast between The Kid and his fantasy of himself is made clear when he meets a real rebel and loner.

CLIP personal bubble

And then of course there’s the villain of the piece, a one-eyed baddie named Zeus.

CLIP joie de vivre

Zeus is played with gruff gusto by cult favorite Michael Ironside of Scanners and Starship Troopers fame. A film like this is only as good as its villain and Ironside raises the bar.

There’s not a lot of plot but then the film doesn’t need it. It completely capture the retro feel of the 80s films it’s trying to imitate and then adds an odd layer of goofy sweetness.

Some companion viewing for this would be genuine 80s action films like Mad Max and Hardware (that’s technically a 1990 release but very much in this 80s action vein) and retro styled films like Dead Hooker in a Trunk and Hobo With a Shotgun. The latter was made by Jason Eisener who also happens to serve as one of the executive producers on Turbo Kid. And all three of these glorious retro films hail from Canada.

Turbo Kid opens Friday at the Digital Gym Cinema and serves up a joyous pastiche.

Thanks for listening to the KPBS Cinema Junkie podcast film review. I’m Beth Accomando. On Friday you can listen to my interview with Miguel Rodriguez of Horrible imaginings film festival. His festival kicks off on Friday and we enjoyed a long. Lively discussion of horror and pushing the envelope on the genre.

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Cinema Junkie

Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place