Sample dialogue from Torque:
Martin Henderson: “I gotta get that bike.”
Monet Mazur: “I gotta get that bitch.”
Ice Cube: “Damn right.”
Obviously we aren’t talking about anything very weighty here. The screenplay is at least three brain cells shy of being moronic; this is one silly, stupid, ridiculous flick. The trick is that everyone involved seems to know this, and wallows in every single one of the film’s rampagingly overblown 81 minutes. Make no mistake, Torque is — by any rational standards — a bad movie. But it’s a fun bad movie.
The plot is purely functional. Expatriate super-biker Cary Ford (Martin Henderson, The Ring) brings his in-need-of-a-bath-and-a-shampoo self back to the U.S. to prove his innocence as an accused drug dealer, and to win back his girl, Shane (Monet Mazur, Just Married). No sooner has he returned than he’s crossed swords — or gears — with bad-ass bike-gang leader Trey Wallace (Ice Cube). Faster than you can kick start a Harley, Shane’s at odds with the real drug dealer, fighting with his ex-girlfriend, and being pursued by the FBI and framed for the murder of Trey’s little brother!
Absurd? You bet. But it’s all just an excuse for unbelievable action sequences, macho posturing, CGI jiggery-pokery and director Joseph Kahn’s nonstop, over-the-top music-video imagery. In fact, it’s hard to say what about Torque is most entertainingly ridiculous. I’m torn between thinking that it’s Henderson’s hygiene, Ice Cube’s “badness” (like being menaced by a Teddy bear that thinks it’s a pit bull), the mechanics of the plot, the effects or the directorial style. All are entertaining on their own, but it’s the breathless combination that makes Torque truly fun.
Kahn’s direction is — intentionally or not — hysterically overstated. The former video director never met a reflective surface he didn’t like. I lost count early on of the number of shots consisting of reflections in motorcycle mirrors, but I do know it wasn’t long before I was laughing at the image of Ice Cube reflected in a shiny knife. Now, this isn’t his entire style. No, no, no. Kahn’s also in love with shots of bikers dismounting their crotch-rockets — including manly close-ups of dusty boots hitting the ground oh-so purposefully. And while the director never tires of this, he does occasionally augment it with CGI intrusions that are apparently intended to thrust the viewer through the motor and out the tail pipe of various combustion engines.
If this sounds a little too much like a video game, just wait. The film climaxes with a 200 mph motorcycle chase through L.A. that is so CGI-driven, it looks exactly like a video game, too. Which is fair, since the impossible stunts leading up to that action sequence could only happen in a computer-generated reality. My personal favorite was the chase on top of — and inside of — a moving train (though a close second was the two women bashing each other with bikes that behave like reared-up, battling stallions).
Cast members — most likely replaced by stunt doubles most of the time — approach all of this with disarming gravity. Whether they realize that the secret to good farce is to play it straight or whether that’s just a happy accident doesn’t really matter. It’s pretty funny regardless. Blessedly, Ice Cube turns out to be a “good bad guy” and doesn’t make much attempt at acting. The closest he gets to it is his spot-on assessment of a late-in-the-day scripting improbability, when he remarks, “Ain’t that ironic?” What’s even more ironic is the fact that I’d far rather sit through this entire amazing amalgamation of stupidity again than have to slog my way through even one scene of Along Came Polly a second time.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke