Judge Patrick Bromley has ten speeds.
Our review of BMX Bandits (Blu-ray), published March 25th, 2011, is also available.
A high flying ride to adventure!
After viewing and falling in love with Not Quite Hollywood, the 2008 documentary on the Australian exploitation ("Ozploitation") film, I vowed to track down as many of the movies mentioned in the documentary as I could get my hands on—and, more specifically, as many of the films of director Brian Trenchard-Smith (the unsung hero of Not Quite Hollywood) as possible. It was with a tremendous amount of excitement, then, that I popped his 1983 kids' film/bikesploitation opus BMX Bandits, newly released by the genre aficionados at Severin, into my DVD player for the first time. One more down, many to go.
Like most people who grew up on HBO in the '80s, I've been aware of BMX Bandits for most of my life—first as a cable staple of my youth, and later as the first starring role of one Nicole Kidman, who appears fresh-faced and with an explosion of frizzy red hair constantly surrounding her pale face (there's little indication here that she would eventually become some mutant hybrid between Ann-Margaret and a six foot tall cat). I'm glad I hadn't seen it until now, though, because I don't think I would have appreciated it correctly. If I was seven or eight years old, maybe—after all, the movie is basically just a mash-up of The Goonies (Brian Trenchard-Smith fanboy Quentin Tarantino is quoted saying as much on the DVD jacket) and Home Alone with some dirtbikes thrown into the mix, with a trio of kids being chased around by inept crooks and eventually taking a stand and fighting back. But seeing it as a fan of Ozploitation, it's an interesting study in the way that Trenchard-Smith adapts to the demands of the genre. Though he may not have many stylistic signifiers—he's just a good journeyman director—what's thrilling about Trenchard-Smith is the way that he fully commits to whatever film he's making: there are no apologies, no attempts to elevate the movie into something it's not, whether it's Turkey Shoot or Leprechaun in the Hood or BMX Bandits. He consistently embraces the genre elements with which he is working and strives to make every movie as entertaining as it can possibly be. If only more directors could take a cue from Brian Trenchard Smith.
BMX Bandits is just that—very entertaining, assuming you have some sort of affection for exploitation movies (even those that are exploiting not sex or violence, but a particular fad in youth culture—think Breakin' or Gleaming the Cube). It's harmless, goofy fun assembled with color, energy and three appealing young leads (in particular Kidman, though she's joined by James Lugton and the terrifically-named Angelo D'Angelo). Those looking for impressive biking action may find the movie a little wanting, as the actual stunt work is limited to just a few sequences. Even then, it consists of small jumps and turns, though Trenchard-Smith stages it as though it's impossibly cool—all slow-mo and repeat shots. No one is doing anything that you would need a second look at, but I appreciate the enthusiasm with which the film treats its stunt work. The comedy is very broad, with a lot of silly slapstick, but it's just the kind of thing young kids are likely to respond to. BMX Bandits is a great deal of fun.
For a movie that's nearly 30 years old (and wasn't made with much of a budget to begin with), BMX Bandits looks terrific on DVD. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image pops with vibrant color and little sign of aging or wear; it's a great-looking image and a transfer that Severin should be applauded for. The stereo audio track does a serviceable job with the dialogue, sound effects and (often unintentionally funny) songs on the soundtrack, but little more. Still, no one will be disappointed with it. Trenchard-Smith has recorded a very engaging audio commentary track in which he discusses his intentions with the movie, how the finished film stacks up against what he was going for and what it was like to work on the production (including working with a neophyte Nicole Kidman). There's a tiny bit of overlap on the otherwise very enjoyable documentary accompanying the film, "BMX Buddies," which collects several of the behind-the-scenes crew (including the screenwriter, who originally wanted to call the film "Water Rats") for an affectionate look back at the making of a cult classic. Kidman does not make an appearance. Included elsewhere, though, is an amusing clip of young Kidman promoting the movie on the Australian kids' show Young Talent Time and the movie's original trailer, plus trailers for a few other Severin titles including the original Inglorious Bastards and Birdemic: Shock and Terror.
Since most of Brian Trenchard-Smith's films are much harder and more violent than BMX Bandits, the movie makes for a fun change of pace. If nothing else, it demonstrates that he's capable of making an entertaining film in just about any genre. Now if only the same could be said of Nicole Kidman.
Not guilty, mate.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
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