Wednesday, July 29, 2015

#1,808. BMX Bandits (1983) - Spotlight on Australia

Directed By: Brian Trenchard-Smith

Starring: David Argue, John Ley, Nicole Kidman

Tag line: "They're burning up the streets!"

Trivia: Nicole Kidman was doubled by an 18-year-old boy who wore a wig

Notable because it features a 15-year-old Nicole Kidman (in one of her first film roles), Brian Trenchard-Smith’s BMX Bandits was geared towards a younger audience, yet adults with a fondness for ‘80s cinema will also enjoy this sometimes goofy, often fun adventure / comedy.

P.J. (Angelo D’Angelo) and Goose (James Lugton), a pair of BMX-riding best pals, agree to help their friend Judy (Kidman) raise money for a new bike. While out on the lake looking for shellfish they can peddle, the trio finds a container filled with state-of-the-art walkie-talkies, which they sell to a few of their friends. 

Only these are no ordinary walkie-talkies: they belong to a group of hardened criminals, who had them specially tuned to pick up police broadcasts. Without these high-tech gadgets, the crooks won’t be able to pull off the payroll heist they’ve been planning, which promises to net each of them about $250,000! 

Anxious to get their walkie-talkies back, two of the criminals, Whitey (David Argue) and Moustache (John Ley), search frantically for P.J., Goose, and Judy. 

What’s more, the police, who have been picking up some strange transmissions as of late, are more than a little perturbed that their secure signal has been hacked, and set out to find those responsible. 

With both the cops and the criminals closing in on them, the three BMX-buddies hop on their bikes and ride as fast as they can, all the while searching for a way out of this mess.

Even at this early stage of her career, Nicole Kidman showed she had acting chops, and is easily the best of the film’s young performers. 
Of course, in a movie called BMX Bandits, it isn’t the performances that grab you; it’s the action, and right off the bat, director Trenchard-Smith treats us to a title sequence with some fast riding and even a few BMX stunts. 

After this initial scene, though, the bikes disappear for a while so that the director can establish his story. In fact, most of the movie’s first half is BMX-free, with Trenchard-Smith finding other ways to keep things chugging along (there’s a tense sequence - set in a cemetery at night - in which P.J., Goose, and Judy are cornered, albeit temporarily, by the two crooks). But rest assured: by the time the film hits the halfway point, the bikes are back, and in a big, big way! 

The humor in BMX Bandits, which ranges from puns to straight-up slapstick, is on the juvenile side (the climax of the big chase could have been lifted from a Three Stooges short), but the BMX action scenes more than make up for it, with our heroes occasionally going way off-road to avoid being captured (at one point, they even take their bikes down a waterpark slide). 

In the end, BMX Bandits might not set the world on fire, but it’s prime '80s cheese, and will surely bring a smile to your face.

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