A Canadian-New Zealand co-production made in homage to 1980s action films, this is in the pastiche recent line which includes those one-or-two joke mock trailers spun out into whole films like Hobo With a Shotgun or Machete or such sustained exercises in nostalgic spin as Manborg … though, thanks to a single outstanding performance, it has charm and heart enough to sustain it beyond the trivia level of registering how perfectly on pitch the electronic music score and the hand-me-down junkyard costumes are.
It’s set in a future – 1997 – after one of those generic collapses of civilisation, and our hero (Munro Chambers) is a young scavenger who idolises Turbo Rider, the hero of a Power Rangers-look comic book which seems to have been a propagandist recruitment tool for a now-disbanded or skeletonised army. His parents were killed, in Once Upon a Time in the West flashbacks, by Zeus – a one-eyed bad boss of the wasteland who allows Michael Ironside to channel his roles in the likes of Spacehunter and Highlander 2. Zeus’s control of a water supply extracted by gruesome means from people allows for a joke at the expense of Soylent Green, though it’s also a lift from the less-fondly-remembered Tank Girl. While rummaging for barterable items, he is befriended by the psychotically perky Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), a blonde robot companion who proves to be a complete limpet, at once naively trusting and gifted with dirty fighting skills, and eventually wholly endearing. Frederic the arm-wrestler (Aaron Jeffrey), an Australian Man With No Name-look wanderer, embodies another type of post-apocalypse hero, and keeps on fighting even after his hand has been buzzsawed off by Zeus’s skull-masked sidekick Skeletron (Edwin Wright). The Kid falls into a downed army ship and finds a Turbo Rider uniform – complete with zapping power-gauntlet. He kits himself out as the Turbo Kid, and takes the battle to Zeus when Apple is kidnapped for a tatty gladiatorial arena. The film deftly switches from imitating Italian and Australian imitations of Mad Max 2 into channelling the sort of gore sloshed about in early Peter Jackson films, with guts pulled out to be wrapped around bicycle tires, warriors hobbled when halves of their comrades plop down over their heads and much other imaginative slapstick carnage.
All in good fun and full of neat little detail, it showcases the high concept – perhaps echoing such post-apocalypse skateboard/rollerblading nonsense as SolaRBabies and Prayer of the Rollerboys – that all these survivors bomb around on push-bikes, with the Kid demonstrating BMX Bandit skillz riding over hills of rubble. In this, it even gets near the sort of absurdist future world seen in Luc Besson’s The Last Battle or Richard Lester’s The Bed-Sitting Room, but the subject here is definitely old movies rather than the base nature of humanity. If it treads water a little in the mid-section, that’s nothing set beside the feature-length longeurs of Exterminators of the Year 3000 or 2020 Texas Gladiators. Everyone is good, but Leboeuf’s Apple, who has a demented grin and startling eyes, is the film’s strongest creation, evoking Darryl Hannah in Blade Runner and Milla Jovovich in The Sixth Element but eccentric and twisted enough to register as a character in her own right. Written and directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell – François and Anouk play the hero’s doomed parents.