Presumably made to please Australian kiddies during matinee hours, “BMX Bandits” has grown to become a considerable cult hit in a few film geek circles, made famous for its attention to hot wheels and for employing Nicole Kidman at her fuzziest, here in her very first feature film role. While it’s best approached as an irresistible time capsule, the picture remains a consistently engaging adventure film, with colorful bikes and a bright cast eager to maintain a high-flying spirit of citywide Sydney pursuit.P.J. (Angelo D’Angelo) and Goose (James Lugton) are a pair of wisecracking BMX riders who accidentally smash their bikes into a row of shopping carts, corralled by frustrated store employee (and BMX daydreamer), Judy (Nicole Kidman). Eager to land new rides, the trio set out to make money, only to stumble across a case filled with powerful walkie-talkies. Selling the radios all over town for big bucks, the gang comes to realize they’ve crossed into dangerous territory when a pair of goons, Whitey (David Argue) and Moustache (John Ley), show up to reclaim their property for criminal mastermind, The Boss (Bryan Marshall). Now on the run, P.J., Goose, and Judy tear off into the city, hoping to evade capture using their youthful cleverness and the sheer pedal power of their brand new bikes.
"Nicole Kidman is all red"
Directed by Ozploitation legend Brian Trenchard-Smith (“Stunt Rock,” “Turkey Shoot”), “BMX Bandits” is a harmless offering of trend-snatching fluff, kept alive through sharp performances, stunning locations, and the inherent coolness of badass BMX stunt action. Trenchard-Smith doesn’t hide his intentions in the least, happily serving up the slapstick and near misses as our teen heroes look to evade trouble at every turn. The picture is breezy, action-packed, and rich with Aussie humor, keeping to a simple routine of rolling shenanigans that never bores, thanks to a directional effort concentrated on the necessities of B-movie entertainment.
Trenchard-Smith doesn’t need much in the way of a budget to create exciting cinema. Just hand the man explosives, an anamorphic lens, and a game cast, and he’ll whip up something appealing, preferably with a saucy Aussie wink.
Unexpectedly, hardcore BMX action doesn’t actually enter the picture until the second half, with much of the early going devoted to bonding scenes with the three main characters and an extended chase sequence set inside a cemetery. That’s all well and good, with a few satisfactorily staged suspense moments, but the real draw here are the bikes. It’s that sensation of youthful agility that makes “BMX Bandits” such a charmer, with Trenchard-Smith giving viewers an admirable run of tricks and stunts (most goosed with lightning synth stings), while also using his locations masterfully, following the gang as they ride through malls and spin around beaches, even making use of local water slides to creatively ditch the baddies. The picture has a winning momentum and a welcome juvenile authority, while offering insanely clear cinematography from John Seale to provide maximum naturalistic eye candy. Most directors would likely dread the “BMX Bandits” filmmaking assignment, but Trenchard-Smith takes the challenge seriously, making a mild cartoon with absolute care, clearly relishing his time arranging bouncy bike action and broad comedy.
As for Kidman, it’s awfully strange to see the superstar smack dab in the middle of her adolescence, before her maturation into serious work. Before her access to hair straighteners. She remains a feisty, commanding screen presence, contributing some heft in the acting department along with her young co-stars. Working with a script that treasures one-liners and primary colored urgency, the cast brings charisma and a swell sense of timing to the picture, with Lugton stealing scenes as the sarcastic Goose. Curiosity about Kidman’s work here will undoubtedly draw viewers, but the ensemble proves to be a potent weapon in the director’s arsenal, giving the picture startling personality before it’s back on the chase, pedaling around the sheer splendor of Sydney.I find it hard to dislike a film that opens with a bank robbery executed by men in pig masks and concludes with a triumphant foam fight straight out of a silent film. All “BMX Bandits” aims to do is please, and the production accomplishes its goal effortlessly, providing a refreshing sense of artistic concentration and a retro blast of childhood innocence, when the whole world was something to roll on through, ideally on the coolest two wheels money could buy.
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originally posted: 03/11/11 14:28:28