> THEY’RE BURNING UP THE STREETS
THERE’S something very fresh, bright and endearing about early-1980s Australiana, and 1983’s BMX Bandits has it in spades. This feel-good flick is the stuff of local legend and became surprisingly popular overseas as well – not to mention the fact that it’s the second-ever film role for a then-16-year-old redhead named Nicole Kidman, who learned to ride a BMX specifically for this part.
Checkout chick Judy (Kidman) is befriended by two local BMX louts, PJ (D’angelo) and Goose (Lugton), who are strapped for cash for bike repairs after a spill at their local shopping centre. They decide that selling seafood to the local market is a means to some quick dollars, but stumble upon a box full of walkie-talkies suspiciously moored in Sydney Harbour. These hightech radios have all the makings of an easy flip, and Judy, PJ and Goose quickly sell them to all the local kids, thus getting them back on two wheels.
However, these radios have been recalibrated to a local police frequency by a gang of crooks, who consider them pivotal for the success of a planned bank heist. It isn’t long before the Bmx-ing trio are being chased by the bumbling robbers Whitey (Aussie movie legend and Midnite Spares scene-stealer David Argue) and his appropriately dubbed offsider Moustache (Ley).
So beings an epic cat-and-mouse chase incorporating some seriously cool BMX action – the waterslide scene was the stuff of dreams as a Gen-x kid – and heavyhauling thrills and spills as an ex-government Ford Galaxie is punished relentlessly from the bad guys giving chase. Released at the peak of BMX culture in Oz, BMX
Bandits is a harmless and enjoyable film that recalls the Secret Valley-esque flour-bomb-and-soap-suds shenanigans that ensue whenever a bunch of kids tackle bumbling crooks head-on. The action and background scenes are full of both popular and long-forgotten local rides (did someone say Toyota Liteace?), and the HG Premier wagon coming to a nasty end at the whim of a steel girder will bring a tear to a glass eye. But keep your eyes peeled for the tunnel-rammed, big-block Chev-powered ski-boat piloted by the baddies – it sounds awesome, and the scene where David Argue crashes into the donk with a foam Esky will have you in stitches.
FROM an acting and soundtrack standpoint, BMX
Bandits is pretty terrible, but who cares? The action, adventure, raw fun and 80s scenery inspired a generation of BMX fans, who still remember the film fondly 35 years later. To me, that is the greatest indicator of a successful flick, and is one we can proudly call our own. The fact that, nowadays, two or more BMX riders in a group are still happily referred to as ‘BMX bandits’ speaks volumes, and harks back to this time of raw, simple fun that we can only hope will resonate with millennial viewers.