Woe is the poor screenwriter who had to come up with a fast-moving buzzword title for Torque. Speed, fast, furious? All taken. And words like expeditious and posthaste lack that cool factor.
Even if you don’t really know what it means, torque is a pretty cool-sounding word, sounding enough like a motorcycle word to hang a movie around. And, hey, at least it’s spelled correctly.
But, as no one discusses the measure of a force’s tendency to produce torsion and rotation about an axis, the title is meaningless. In fact, call it Red Bull: The Movie. Oh, sorry Amp: The Movie. In a movie rife with ludicrous Pepsi product placement, it would be best to just tow the line.
Torque is a wonderfully dumb movie, smart enough about being stupid that it’s a cheer-worthy moment when an Ice Cube one-liner correctly deems a bad guy’s death ironic. Imagine an 81-minute version of that motocross race in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, only with a wink-wink sense of knowing just how ridiculous the whole affair is.
It’s never really known why Henry James (see?), a biker with a bad temper and a bad mullet, stuck Cary Ford (Martin Henderson) with crotch-rockets filled with crystal meth. But he did, bringing federal heat on Cary and his girlfriend, Shane (Monet Mazur). Cary hides the bikes from Henry (Matt Schulze) and goes on the run to Thailand.
After several months of eating authentic pad thai, Cary comes back, hoping to make things right. Using the still-hidden bikes as leverage, Cary tries to throw the feds off his trail and onto Henry’s. But Henry’s gang frames Cary for the murder of a rival gang leader’s brother. Cue glorious explosions, quick chases and intense close-ups of boots, gloves and dilated pupils.
Director Joseph Kahn is a music-video director to the stars and now heir apparent to the throne of Charlie’s Angels director McG for empty-calorie action movies. But while McG’s movies look like a commercial, they’ve never actually included one. A montage of soapy females in skimpy clothes is a Coors Light commercial, right down to dead-ringer use of the same Kid Rock song, “Forever.”
It’s pretty annoying, yes, but the movie is so awash in, and aware of, its idiocy that it’s hard to hold a huge grudge. After all, a murder scene has the same visual aesthetic as every Linkin Park video. There are weird homage moments to The Godfather Part II and, of all things, Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi. And the cast is having fun, especially Ice Cube, who with his gruff snarls cements his status as a go-to guy, a Christopher Walken for the multicultural action film.
And two action sequences may incite physics-department rioting throughout the country. A motorcycle chase atop and through a moving train is perfectly silly. And the climax, involving Cary’s use of a bike built around a helicopter engine, is, unfortunately a poster child for bad special effects.
Featuring destruction worse than when Neo flew through a downtown Matrix, the scene twists, turns and crashes so quickly that it’s hard to even see the bad guys bite it. It’s a supremely fake-looking scene, but at least it ends with a big boom.
Go in expecting nothing more structured than really cool video game levels, and Torque is fizzle-your-brain fun at a breakneck pace.