As far as bicycle heist movies go, BMX Bandits is second only to 1985’s gears and handlebars Magnum opus, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Severin films has a knack for putting out the obscure movies we all unknowingly crave, from Santa Sangre to the already classic Birdemic. With their re-release of Brian Trenchard-Smith’s BMX Bandits, Severin has pulled together a classic of campy flare, testing the limitations of neon on our new age of flat-screens and BLU-RAY. The cover of the DVD contains the following quote from filmmaker and cinephile Quentin Tarantino; “If we’d grown up in Australia, BMX Bandits would have been our Goonies. ” That’s quite a strong statement about a decade of kids who were lucky enough to grow up on the likes of E.T., The Explorers and of course, The Goonies. So does BMX Bandits stack up? As a child of the 80’s and early 90’s, I’ll break this thing down in a language my post Carter brethren can relate to.
BMX Bandits is a classic from the 1980’s boom of domestically produced Australian films known best as Ozploitation. For those (like myself) who were unschooled on the ins and outs of Ozploitation, the 2008 feature documentary Not Quite Hollywood introduced this bizarre landscape of Cinema to an eager generation of film fans thirsty for something retro yet new. Out of this crop of films, BMX is the most youth oriented, a teenage rebellion movie full of some of the weirdest dialogue and character interactions of any teen flick I’ve ever seen. Oh, and by the way, this thing stars a 16 year old Nicole Kidman complete with frizzy little orphan Annie hairdo. That’s right, Academy Award nominee Nicole Kidman made her film debut in a movie called BMX Bandits.
P.J. and Goose (think Top Gun on a mongoose) are two friends who love to cause mayhem of the wheelie, handle-bar riding variety. They love their bikes and are actually quite capable of performing some pretty cool and acrobatic moves on them. They meet up with Judy (Kidman), and form an unrealistically fast friendship, somewhere deciding to call themselves the BMX Bandits. They even have matching BMX Bandits t-shirts in yellow red and blue. The dynamic between these three is a little bit creepy. P.J. and Goose are two horribly cheesy jokesters constantly quipping, making puns and innuendos and causing some uncomfortable sexual tension between the three. Imagine two Uncle Joey’s (Full House reference one) trying to get in the pants of one Kimmy Gibler (and Full House reference two) for 90 minutes. Yes, that creepy!
We are introduced to a gang of bank robbers who wear pig and wolf masks and wish they were half as cool and Swayze and Reeves (Point Break reference). The robbers have some special walkie-talkies that they have for some strange reason stashed hanging from the side of a harbor pontoon. Even stranger, the BMX Bandits somehow find the stash while looking for mussels on buoys and on the sides of boats. They steal the talkies, sell them, and in turn piss the robbers off to excessive levels of goofiness. The entire plot of this movie involves three kids being chased by two bumbling bank robbers (even more stupid than Pesci and Stern’s Home Alone thieves) all for the cause of finding some stolen walkie-talkies. If the randomness of that plot alone doesn’t draw you to Bandits, perhaps a token fat kid will. That’s right, BMX Bandits has its very own Chunk, a chubby, acne covered doofus equipped with green overalls, solar radio hat, and his very own horribly bad synth soundtrack.
Story and dialogue are horrendously botched, but BMX Bandits somehow manages to capture that 80’s essence we all relish. The opening alone has epic 80’s written all over it, with a nice airbrushed BMX Bandits logo that looks like it was stripped off of a GMC Vandura. Follow that with a montage of close-up shots of P.J. and Goose strapping on their bike gloves, face shields, and safety pads and locking their pedals, and you have an 80’s montage to rival Schwarzenegger’s island landing in Commando. Of course, behind all of this is a synth soundtrack that is so awesomely bad you’ll be humming it for days. For added greatness, every time the bikes move or jump, synth effects make them audibly soar like some great 80’s arcade game.
BMX Bandits is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. To compare it to Goonies isn’t fair, because this was Australia, a different land with thick accents, short shorts, and a culture all its own. Sure, whoever wrote this film probably fell off their bikes without a helmet more than once, but you really can’t fault it for that. Why can’t you fault it for that? Because it’s meant to be campy, that’s the fun of it. If you want a serious blending of extreme sports, mystery, and 80’s, check out Christian Slater in Gleaming the Cube. For innuendo filled teenage banter, ten minute chase scenes that send bikes down waterslides, solid BMX tricks, and loads of 80’s flare look no further than BMX Bandits.