Motorcycle enthusiast Cary Ford (Martin Henderson) returns to Los from Thailand, where he fled after coming into possession of drugs belonging to Henry James (Matt Schulze), leader of the drug-dealing Hellions gang. At a biker convention in the desert, Henry frames Ford for the murder of Sonny (Faizon Love), brother of Reapers gang leader Trey Wallace (Ice Cube). With Hellions, Reapers and FBI agent McPherson (Adam Scott) on his trail, Ford convinces bitter ex-girlfriend Shane (Monet Mazur) of his innocence and the couple head back to L.A., where Ford plans to settle the score with Henry.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
Kept on the shelf for over a year to avoid competition with 2 Fast 2 Furious and Biker Boyz, Torque is a dumbly written, flashily photographed and occasionally effective adoration of two-wheeled transport. Targeted at young males who are aroused by motorised mayhem and bored when characters talk too much, this MTV-style flick is a souped-up version of the bikie exploitation movies made in the genre's 1966-70 golden era.
The basic plot and character types remain the same, but the denims and long-handlebar choppers of those days have been replaced by snazzy leather ensembles and sleek, hi-tech modules capable of accelerating from zero to 100mph in 7 seconds. There are also probably more edits in the first ten minutes of this film than in The Wild Angels (1966) and Rebel Rousers (1970) combined. Like many of its bikie film predecessors, Torque is essentially a western on wheels. The story centres on wrongly accused Ford Carey (Martin Henderson) returning from exile to straighten things out and win back his true love's heart. With a "drugs stashed in the petrol tank" sub-plot borrowed from Easy Rider (1969), the action takes place in sweaty desert locales and arrives with all stock characters intact.
Dumb cops, grossly overweight locals, brain-dead petrol pump attendants and lots of girls in high-cut shorts and low-cut tops are paraded before the cameras to prove that some things never change, even if B-movies like this are now made by rock clip directors brandishing a full arsenal of special effects. Apart from a few snappy lines delivered by gym boot-wearing FBI agent McPherson (Adam Scott, doing a decent impression of Jeff Goldblum) the dialogue is stilted and frequently banal but that's not what Torque is here for. It's sole aim is to excite audiences with fast chase scenes and lashings of violence. In both departments it delivers reasonably well, though the over-use of close-ups doesn't always give us a clear picture of who's pummelling who. The highlight is a motorcycle duel on top of a speeding train between Ford and Trey (Ice Cube) and the joust between girl bikers Shane (Monet Mazur) and Henry's grungy gothic girlfriend isn't bad either.
Naming its chief villain Henry James is about as literary as it gets as these
testosterone-overloaded boys pull faces at each other and race around the desert but hardcore fans of this brand of entertainment should find enough thrills to make the ticket purchase worthwhile. In his first leading role in an American movie, New Zealand-born Martin Henderson doesn't have much to work with but shows enough promise to suggest he's capable of moving up the ranks. If director Joseph Kahn can tone down his headache-inducing visual style, he too may land some more substantial projects. Better than I expected but not as good as it should have been, Torque is decent enough piece of junk that should do well on DVD when pizza and beers are added to the bill.
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CAST: Martin Henderson, Ice Cube, Monet Mazur, Jay Hernandez
PRODUCER: Brad Luff, Neal H. Moritz
DIRECTOR: Joseph Kahn
SCRIPT: Matt Johnson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Levy
EDITOR: David Blackburn, Howard E. Smith
MUSIC: Trevor Rabin (+ Paul Linford)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Peter J. Hampton
RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 22, 2004