Runtime: 88 minutes
Available on Blu Ray and DVD
Reviewed by Peter Hearn
Since starting to contribute to HCF, this film has been at the top of must review list. It also kicks off my Ozploitation series, and films that shaped me as a film fan and filmmaker.
As a kid, I used to frequent my local flea pit, the Royal, in the small town I grew up in. Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s I saw all the greats at the local cinemas in Tadley and down the road at the ABC in Basingstoke; the likes of Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman 1 & 2, Time Bandits, Tron, Dragonslayer, Beastmaster, BMX Bandits…
Whoa, BMX Bandits? Really? Yes indeed.
Probably one of my favourite films of all time…
This December sees the 30th anniversary of BMX Bandits (we got it a year later, but hey). When I was a kid, I saw this film 4 times at the cinema. I loved it, couldn’t get enough of it, and since then I always revisit it at least once a year. It wasn’t until later that I realised it was a Brian Trenchard-Smith film, now one of my favourite directors, with such greats as The Man From Hong Kong, Stunt Rock, Deathcheaters, Turkey Shoot and the Quest (aka Frog Dreaming aka Go-Kids). At the time, I just thought it was an amazing film that not only made me want to be a BMXer, but a BMX Bandit.
Whoooooosh (this is the sound a BMX makes in flight…)
This was also Nicole Kidman’s first film, probably the fact people most know about this film – it is a film she reputedly wants to forget. What? Why? C’mon Nicole, what’s not to love? Just look at those vivid colours, those set pieces, that frizzy hair. I’d rather watch Kidman in this, being a perky BMX Bandit than living on a Cold Mountain any day.
The plot is fairly nonexistent, it’s something sweet and simple and straight out of a Children’s Film Foundation flick or an Ealing Comedy, but it just makes sense for the time it was made.
A gang robbing banks find the police stepping on their toes, so decide that they need to be one up on the cops, by using walkie talkies, so they can overhear the cops and be one step ahead.
Unfortunately for them, they didn’t count on 3 young BMXers spoiling their fun. Judy, played by Kidman, Goose and PJ (James Lugton and Angelo D’Angelo respectively) finding the walkie talkie stash, selling the goods and using their cash to repair their bikes and hopefully get Judy her dream bike too.
Unfortunately for our intrepid Scooby gang, The adult gang want their walkie talkies back and they will stop at nothing to get them.
My first memory of what I wanted to be growing up was that I wanted to be a stuntman. After watching this film for the first time, I wanted to do the tricks, ride around a building site, experience a chase through a shopping mall. I wanted to ride my bike down a water flume, I wanted to throw flour at bad guys, be like the BMX Bandits and be involved in one endless chase (and I mean endless, the chase goes on forever – giving Mad Max 2 – the Road Warrior a run for its money). I wanted to do it all. Alas I didn’t. I ended up pretty much being like Goose (the wry, sarcastic, fairly gormless one) but never rode my BMX down a flume. Sad days.
This film has a lot to recommend it. Despite its fairly violent opening, this is essentially a kids action flick, and yes, Its action sequences are second to none and shot to perfection by John Seale who has done everything since from The Hitcher to Harry Potter (and worked with Kidman again on the aforementioned Cold Mountain). This film features some crazy shots. The POV shots of the of the cars and bikes really make you feel part of the action.
The delivery of lines is also dead pan and fun and it looks like a live action cartoon. I also love going back and revisiting it as an adult to see the likes of David Argue from Razorback and John Ley from Mad Max and Turkey Shoot as the two bad guys in pursuit. This film is just wonderful.
Then there is the ending…
One of my favourite films of last year was Premium Rush, with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Michael Shannon. Why? Because it felt like BMX Bandits. It also ended almost exactly the same way, with all of the Levitt’s characters pals turning up on their bikes to confuse and confound the baddie, just like the end of BMX Bandits…David Koepp must have been a big fan of BMX Bandits too.
If you haven’t seen BMX Bandits because some snooty film critic said it was rubbish, or your friends said ‘Rad’ was better, they are quite frankly talking out of their watering hole. This is the BMX movie to watch, this is the Kidman film to watch. THIS…IS…THE…MOVIE…TO…WATCH…
Oh, and Ms Kidman, if you are reading this, cos we all know you are a big fan of Horror Cult Films; this film shaped my childhood, my teenhood, my adulthood and it made me do one thing…
… this film made me buy a Mongoose BMX.
You, Kidman, never made me buy a Cold Mountain.
That’s the power of this film.