MTV mainstay Joseph Kahn’s feature film debut, “Torque”, earned a pitiful 2.7 out of a possible 10 points at IMDB.com (as of this writing), which makes it worst than Vanilla Ice’s “Cool as Ice” and slightly better than “Teen Wolf Too”. Is it because “Torque” is such a monumental failure? Not really. What it does say, however, is that the vast majority of moviegoers have never ridden a motorcycle before. They could somewhat empathize with driving really fast in a heavily modified import car ala “The Fast and the Furious”. But a motorcycle? Most of the world’s population is too chicken for a sports bike, which may explain why no one cut “Torque” any slack.
Martin Henderson (“The Ring”) leads the leather-clad cast as Cary Ford, a maverick biker who has just returned to the California desert after 6 months of hiding in Thailand. Ford is a wanted man: by the FBI, a rival gang led by Henry James (Matt Schulze), and his irritated girlfriend Shane (Monet Mazur). In record time, Ford manages to reacquaint himself with riding buddies Dalton (Jay Hernandez) and Val (Will Yun Lee), mend fences with Shane, get on the even worst side of James, and makes a new enemy in black biker leader Trey (Ice Cube). Things get worst for our hero when Trey’s ill-tempered kid brother ends up dead and Ford is the prime suspect.
The mere existence of “Torque” owes to the fact that it was made by the same people who convinced young Americans that the presence of flashy import cars going really fast were all you needed to stitch a movie together. In a funny gag, a character in “Torque” utters the same line that Vin Diesel’s character utters in “Furious”. It’s a line that got a lot of airplay because it was also in that movie’s trailer. In response to the line being uttered here, a character groans, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” I have to agree. I thought it was dumb when Diesel’s character said it the first time.
Being that “Torque” is constructed out of silly putty, it’s no surprise that it falls back on some rather annoying conceits. Even when characters are going 90 miles per hour on a motorcycle and wearing helmets, they can still converse normally. Really, it’s quite amazing. Insanely stupid and completely unbelievable, but pretty amazing that the movie sees absolutely nothing wrong with it. The other conceit is that sports bikes weigh as much as BMX bicycles. This allows characters to do outrageous things like spin their bikes, jump it over train tracks, and even — as shown in the trailer — hop onto the back of a speeding train.
It’s all deliciously over-the-top, employing the technique of transforming a character from flesh and blood to CGI in mid-stride. Then again, “Torque” was probably designed to be outrageously cartoonish from the word go. I hesitate to even call the script by Matt Johnson an actual screenplay. The plot isn’t worth mentioning, but the wild action and the oh-so-pretty cast is. Martin Henderson definitely proves to be a better actor and more viable action star than the Keanu Reeves impersonator Paul Walker. And there’s the impossibly gorgeous and sexy Monet Mazur (“Stark Raving Mad”) to give this visual eye candy of a movie even more yummy treats.
On the other hand, rapper turned actor Ice Cube seems to have forgotten that he once learned to act in “Three Kings” if his performance here and in “Ghost of Mars” is evidence. Johnson’s script even manages to throw in one of those FBI agents who are always wrong into the mix, and this time the FBI agent even has a black, sassy female partner. But the most curious thing about “Torque” might be the presence of British flags in the background. None of the characters were British, so one has to wonder about the extensive cameos by Union Jack. Of course these thoughts were only interesting because the movie is just so superficial.
“Torque” is an idiotic but strangely exciting ride. It’s no worst than “The Fast and the Furious”, and fans of motorcycles will get a kick out of all the gravity-defying (not to mention logic-defying) nonsense they put those sports bikes through. It’s also much better than the snooze-inducing bike movie “Biker Boyz”, but that’s not saying a lot.
In any case, whatever millions they spent on the stunts and the army of motorcycle stuntmen they probably got it all back during the chick/motorcycle fight toward the end, where two soda ads are featured so blatantly as to be a tad embarrassing.
Joseph Kahn (director) / Matt Johnson (screenplay)
CAST: Martin Henderson …. Cary Ford
Ice Cube …. Trey
Monet Mazur …. Shane
Matt Schulze …. Henry James
Jay Hernandez …. Dalton
Will Yun Lee …. Val
Jaime Pressly …. China