Junkfood Cinema: BMX Bandits

By  · Published on November 11th, 2011

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; we don’t know what a barbie is either so just throw the shrimp into our mouths. You have just gone walkabout and stumbled upon the Internet’s 87th most prestigious bad movie column. Every week, I spear a wildly schlocky movie as it goes hopping by with a veritable pouch full of shortcomings. But then my opinion of the film boomerangs back to the pure adoration I’ve been harboring all along. To cap the occasion, I offer a disgustingly delicious snack food item certain to prove only slightly less hazardous than any of the innumerable poisonous Australian fauna.

This week’s didgeri-don’t: BMX Bandits.

What Makes It Bad?

BMX Bandits is an adventure film from Australia. Now I know what you’re thinking, what the hell is an “Australia” and aren’t BMX bikes only for children? Like you, I can only glean what little knowledge is available about this uncharted land from the popular documentary The Road Warrior. BMX Bandits, though supposedly fictional, is a further depiction of life after the Aussiepocalypse. What we learn from BMX Bandits is that the crippling gas shortage documented in The Road Warrior lead to an unsurprising decline in automobile sales. In response, Australia saw a dramatic upswing in BMX bike ownership. The childishness of BMX is a common misconception, but the truth is that this is an incredibly grownup sport. In fact, the abbreviation BMX actually stands for Business Management Xecutive. BMX Bandits is therefore one of the few films that recognizes the incontrovertible fact that the word “dude” is merely a bastardization of “adultitude.” Were this a kiddie sport, the film’s theme song would not begin with the line, “we’re ready to die,” because that would be weird. But it totally does, and it totally isn’t.

The misconception is furthered by the fact that upon first glance, the casual observer may mistake the bike riders in the film for children. This too can be explained. Lingering radiation in the air after the atomic fallout of the Koala Wars caused stunted growth in some of the citizenry, making it appear as if these BMX riders are children. Even the statuesque escaped kangaroo that is Nicole Kidman appears downright adolescent. But clearly with their entrepreneurial and crime-fighting skills, coupled with their propensity for Vaudevillian jokes, these are in fact adults. This is made all the more clear when Kidman transforms into what is clearly a full-grown male during the film whenever performing wide-shot stunts on her bike. She’s so adult she’s actually two of them at once! I mean come on, if these were kids, don’t you think we’d see one parent at some point during the film?

Speaking of attachment issues, it seems as if the protagonists of this film are unable to be apart from their bikes for any length of time. At one point, they decide that the thievery is so rampant in their town that they can nary afford to leave their bikes unattended, even for the span of time it takes to travel down a water slide. The irony, of course, is that they themselves are the greatest thieves in their town. So in spite of the overwhelming risk of rust, these three go barreling down the slippery slides with their BMX bikes out in front of them like ten-speed life preservers. They also refuse to wear anything but BMX racing attire throughout the film. With their chromatically mish-mashed assortment of helmets, striped pants, and shirts bearing the name of the film, they succeed in resembling colorful, candy-coated mental patients from start to finish. But I suppose their obsessive addiction is somewhat warranted given that these are no ordinary bikes. These bikes make the sound of shooting lasers as they fly past stationary cameras and actually have the ability to alternately outrun and catch up to speeding cars and trucks. This has to have something to do with the cars and trucks trying to conserve precious gasoline because otherwise this would just be the product of a mindless script.

The plot of BMX Bandits may seem overly simplistic, and that’s because it is. But again, it is an expression of life in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is Australia. Be not fooled by the shots of gorgeous blue skies and clear ocean waters, this is a lawless land. After all, the film isn’t called BMX Upstanding Members of Society. Hearkening back to its roots as a prison colony, this straightforward story centers on a trio of bandits who happen across a hidden cache of walkie-talkies (the new Australian currency after the “Gibson Incident”) and immediately sell them to their friends for ill-gotten profit. This wanton lawlessness is met by even more lawlessness as thugs pursue our “heroes” at every turn, seeking to reclaim their precious communication devices. When one of their rank is kidnapped by the thugs, the two remaining BMXers gather an entire tribe of little bicycling wallabies and mount a viciously silly attack on those transgressors. But that’s pretty much all we have to go on; the movie is unencumbered by subtext or even secondary plotlines.

As if the unrepentant theft of walkies not enough, the lawlessness of these riders is further illustrated by their brazen disruption of basic commerce as they ride through shopping malls and restaurants. Is there no end to their devious criminality? Although, the infrastructure of their town is doing little to curb their misdeeds: constructing ramps out of all manner of otherwise useful objects and carelessly scattering them about in locations most facilitating of super rad jumps. That same lackluster infrastructure is also what allows the riders to become vigilantes. These bandits basically do all the town’s police work, bringing in bank robbers the police are helpless to apprehend. Their mercenary tendencies will not be sated until they are given their own BMX park. Through completely underhanded means, they secure their prize in a deal with corrupt government officials so shady it’s details are shrouded in secrecy even from the audience.

Why I Love It!

BMX Bandits is but one of many fantastic offerings from the great Brian Trenchard-Smith. BTS has become one of my favorite cult film directors since being introduced to him two years ago by my good friend Brian Kelley (whose twitter handle is @BTSjunkie). This is not the first BTS film to be featured in Junkfood Cinema; his man-hunting opus Turkey Shoot was one of the first JFC alums. With his affinity for wild genre fare and his ability to produce films at often unwisely brisk speeds, Brian Trenchard-Smith has earned a reputation as Australia’s Roger Corman. Like Corman, he has some stinkers that are fun despite themselves and some legitimately quality films as well. Whichever breed of BTS you happen to be watching, you can be certain that the stuntwork will be outstanding. And even though BMX Bandits is cast with mostly children, the clever costuming often obscures the age of the stunt performer on screen and therefore BTS creates, mostly effectively, the illusion that these young kids are climbing atop moving trucks and dodging traffic on their bikes.

Like the best Ozploitation films, BMX Bandits features Aussie bullies. A disturbingly frequent trend in Australian b-movies is the presence of a crude, buffoonish character who understands only violence and crime; these are the bullies. Typically they roam the roadways waiting to torture innocent motorists. But BMX Bandits isn’t satisfied being a typical Ozploitation film. They have TWO Aussie bullies. They got David Argue, the bully from Razorback, and John Ley, the bully from Turkey Shoot, and combined them to form one epic bully conglomerate. But somewhere in the bully gene splicing process, they came up with two barely-functioning oafs who only understand how to inflict pain on themselves for comedic effect. Nevertheless, it serves the film well and represents the Aussie bully equivalent of the 92 NBA Dream Team.

I really do enjoy the juvenile cast here. Normally the thing that irritates me most about kids’ movies is…the kids. They are usually so incessantly precious or, worse, lacking in anything resembling acting talent that I end up wanting to claw my eyes out before the first refrain of the emotionally manipulative score. But this motley crew is geeky, funny, and just crude enough to be both entertaining and genuine. Even Nicole Kidman, the adult version of whom I don’t count myself a fan, is charming and feisty. In addition, the fatty fat rich kid is also quite funny if only because he’s the worst antagonist in recent memory. He’s fooled by the simplest grift, he slips on discarded ice cream falling flat on his back, and his greatest feat of mischief involves detaching a segment of shopping carts in a grocery store parking lot. He’s basically Dennis The Slightly Inconvenient.

Junkfood Pairing: Bloomin’ Onion

You may think me a dingo for selecting this snack for this film because, while a staple of a certain Australian-themed steakhouse, the bloomin’ onion has a multitude of layers, whereas BMX Bandits does not. But if you’ll kind stop thinking faster than me for a moment, smarty smartertons, you’ll take note of the fact that a bloomin’ onion doesn’t so much have layers as it has one thing presented over and over again in succession. Replace onions with BMX bikes, and you’ve got the perfect summation of BMX Bandits. Just be happy I didn’t insist you eat Vegemite. I said g’day mate!

If you’ve got a taste for more, there’s always another helping in the Junkfood Cinema Archive.

Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.