Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Written by Patrick Edgeworth and Russell Hagg
The 1980’s saw a big boom in the sport of BMX racing, and the bikes began appearing in several Hollywood and non-Hollywood productions. Long before Rad, and a year before E.T. put BMX bikes on the world stage, Ozploitation legend Brian Trenchard-Smith (Turkey Shoot, Dead End Drive-In), directed BMX Bandits – a breezy, action-packed adventure most famous for employing Nicole Kidman in her very first movie role. The film has grown to become a considerable cult hit in many circles and with reason. Bandits is an irresistible time capsule, showing what the sport, and bikes, were once like. These were the days when you could actually sit on a BMX bike seat and didn’t need to rely on your feet to break. And while the Kuwahara was made famous thanks to Spielberg’s ’84 masterpiece, Bandits featured a blue Mongoose, an orange Malvern Star, and the yellow DB, not to mention hundreds of other BMX bikes used in a mass rally during the film’s climax. But put aside references to BMX culture, movie buffs who have little-to-no-knowledge of the sport might find themsevles pleasantly surprised. BMX Bandits not only holds up well as a piece of nostalgia, but remains consistently engaging from start to finish.
PJ (Angelo D’Angelo) and his best friend Goose (James Lugton), are two Australian BMX riders who make plans to venture off on a fishing trip with their newfound friend, a sporty red-headed Judy (Nicole Kidman). Along the way, the trio of kids stumble upon a stash of illegal walkie-talkies which they decide to sell for new BMX gear. Unfortunately, the radios belong to a murderous gang of bank robbers who quickly realize the teens have them in thier possession. Now on the run, P.J., Goose, and Judy take off into the city, hoping to get away from two goons named Whitey (David Argue) and Moustache (John Ley), who set out to reclaim their property belonging to their Boss (Bryan Marshall).
The best way to describe BMX Bandits is to think The Goonies meets Rad. For what is labeled as B-grade entertainment, Bandits features stunning cinematography from Future Oscar-winner John Seale (Cold Mountain). The colour scheme of the film is beaming, and the locations are stunning. There is an extended chase sequence across a graveyard which could easily be an outtake from The Monster Squad and a heist sequence equivalent to a scene from Point Break; where thieves sporting Halloween rubber masks successfully rob a local bank. Half the fun of watching Bandits comes from Kidman’s sharp performance, and from the rich Aussie humour, of which there is plenty. Kidman, even at an early age remains a spirited, commanding screen presence, and while she is heads above the best performer here; the entire ensemble of teens all pull their weight. Working with a script crammed with one-liners she and her young co-stars deliver lines of dialogue with great ease and fine comic timing, especially Lugton as the sarcastic Goose and hardcore horror movie aficionado.
While the hardcore BMX action doesn’t actually enter the picture until late in the game, three top BMX bike experts were hired to perform an assault of tricks and bicycle stunts. More so, Trenchard-Smith makes full use of the city following the gang as they ride through malls, construction yards, warehouses and even along beach front property.
Of course every 80’s film comes with a high factor of cheese, but like Rad, Bandits is pure retro-80’s goodness. The film mostly plays as a live-action, Scooby Doo, cat-and-mouse chase littered with fun action sequences and even a few large explosions. BMX Bandits is an 80’s classic that can be placed alongside The Goonies and Monster Squad.
– Ricky D
(The theme song “Ready To Fly” by The Papes is still pretty awesome, even decades removed)
I wanted to capture the spirit of the Ealing comedies and British films of the ‘50s and ‘60s that were clearly aimed at children and delivered action and fun in a largely cartoonish way. If you look at the basic premise of the plot, the crooks clearly want to or intend to kill the children at some point, so how do you disguise that and make that palatable to an audience of kids and parents? You make the crooks buffoonish, the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, so that takes the curse off the underlying purpose.