A silly, silly Fast and the Furious clone on bikes. Far less polished but brainlessly enjoyable.
By most rational standards, Torque is terrible. This is why it's riding fairly at a lowly #34 in IMDB's bottom 100 films. I can only assume this is the result of people expecting some sort of affecting, life changing drama rather than the clearly advertised daft motorbike film. Perhaps it's attracted the attention of disgruntled Spanish Inquisition fans who were expecting it to be about Tomas de Torquemada and took exception to the testosterone fuelled nonsense that they ended up with. But in my humble opinion at least, if you managed to eke enjoyment out of the insanely popular The Fast and the Furious and it's sequel then there's no reason this won't keep you amused. Or at least it's noteworthy to see Ice Cube embarrass himself again.
There is a plot, surprisingly, although it's just as thin as its brethren. Cary Ford (Martin Henderson) returns from six months in Thailand after narrowly escaping a busting from the Feds, lead by Agent McPherson (Adam Scott) whose been taking style tips from The Strokes and attitude tips from James Spader. Ford is back to clear his name, as the narcotics that McPherson was in such hot pursuit of really belonged to Evil Biker Dude Henry James (Matt Schulze), leader of the Evil Biker Dude Bike Gang that bizarrely also includes Max 'Glitter' Beesley. Ford teams up with his best biker buddies, Dalton (Jay Hernandez) and Val (Will Yun Lee), who each get at least, ooh, four lines and serve little to no purpose.
Ford's also back to make things right with the girl he abandoned, Shane (Monet Mazur). Initially resistant, she soon crumbles under Ford's manly charms but hark, trouble doth break on the horizon! Henry frames Ford for the murder of Junior, brother of Trey (Mr. Cube) the leader of the fearsome biker gang the Reapers. Now our heroes must fight to clear Ford's good name while avoiding the coppers and the Reapers. Cue lots of silly set piece driving stunts, fights, brawls and really poor dialogue.
Although the trailer places an unwarranted and ill-advised emphasis on pony CG stunt renders, thankfully almost all of the driving is real action and well done, in an utterly contrived way. Handy ramps to drive on top of moving trains? Check. Good guys remarkably surviving point blank explosions? Check. Fortuitous and inexplicable appearance of The World's Fastest Motorbike just when it's needed? Check. If this kind of thing was enough to upset you then you're hardly the kind of person that would have bought a ticket to see it in the first place.
It's apparent from the first scene that no-one involved is attempting to take this at all seriously. This is probably it's saving grace, as is it was handled as a serious attempt at, well, anything it'd be laughed at. Of course, it's still laughed at, but at least this way I can imagine us laughing along with the film rather than at it. There's no other real excuse for the left field running jokes involving sushi coming from Thailand, or Ice Cube pulling up to a McPherson's motor, shouting 'Fuck Tha Police' then burning off at high speeds.
Well, whether it takes itself seriously or not is irrelevant as I certainly wasn't, frequently reduced to giggling like a schoolgirl. High art it ain't, but at least it's enjoyable without having to jump through hoops like this week's other release, 21 Grams. Sharing the same sensibilities and simplistic pleasures as 2 Fast 2 Furious, Torque plays like a movie adaptation of ye olde Megadrive game Road Rash, fights while driving at speed evolving into a form of Bike-Fu by the final reel.
Brash, bold and mostly bollocks, a few decent action set-pieces can't hide the fact that this feels like a budget version of the 2 Fast 2 Furious largely because, well, it is. With a shade over half the budget, (though a still substantial $40 mil) given to first time director Joseph Kahn and first time screenwriter Matt Johnson, the less than A-list cast slumber through the minimal plotline elements and wisely let the stunts do the talking for them.
For everything that Torque manages to get right there's at least one thing it gets wrong, be it some of the most blatant product placements seen in a cinema (this movie was brought to you by tasty Doritos and refreshing Mountain Dew, why not buy some and be as cool as these guys?) or the poor CG stunt for the finale that's neither convincing nor comprehendible. Should the fact that everyone involved seems to treat it as a thinly veiled in-joke deter you from seeing it? Probably. There's no real point to the proceedings other than to point out that 'powerful motorbikes are fast', a concept we already had pretty much nailed, thanks.
However, this is a lean time of year for action movies, buried under a pile of turgid dramas, suspect rom-coms and forgettable kiddy-friendly fare. If you need some outlet for testosterone then this is no worse than, say Steal, although that's damning it with faint praise. Should a film be cut slack for being awful purely because I was expecting it to be? Such deep philosophical questions require a level of though I'm not prepared to give such a brainless film. There's no point judging this film or its ilk against the same standards as, say About Schmidt because it's a very different beast. It aims to be a diverting chasey type action movie and it's has some mild success in doing so, so it can have a semi-respectable mark, on the condition that the next time Ice Cube steps into a studio it's a recording one, not a movie studio.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.
Ice Cube (Trey)
Monet Mazur (Shane)
Matt Schulze (Henry James)
Jay Hernandez (Dalton)
Will Yun Lee (Val)
Jaime Pressly (China)
Adam Scott (Agent McPherson)