Riding fast, heading absolutely nowhere

MovieReview

January 16, 2004|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Torque isn't a movie, it's an 81-minute soda commercial.

You know those "Do the Dew" ads, in which handsome young guys and gals expend all manner of energy doing stunts that are clearly impossible (like the one where the car leaps over a guy's head and the driver reaches down to snatch a can from the guy's hand). Oh my, are they exhilarating. And at about a half-minute, they're just long enough.

Torque is 162 of those things strung together, under the pretense of telling a story. What is thrilling in brief snippets is dumb duMB DUMB here; calling it brain-dead almost seems a compliment, suggesting there was actual brain activity at one time.

At the center of this over-loud, over-long, over-pumped mess is Cary Ford (New Zealand actor Martin Henderson), a biker of amazing abilities and unquenchable spirit (we know that because his jacket loudly proclaims "Carpe diem") who had the bad fortune to run afoul of drug dealer/biker-gang leader Henry (Matt Schulze, who growls). After an indeterminate period of exile, Ford is back to clear his name (the FBI thinks he's been dealing drugs himself), settle the score with Henry and, most important, re-establish intimate relations with his hottie girlfriend, Shane (Monet Mazur).

Naturally, this is going to be difficult, what with the feds and Henry's gang after Ford's scalp. But wait, things get worse: While innocently motorcycling his way along desert roads at 100 mph or so, Ford runs afoul of yet another gang, this one a group of Los Angeles street toughs led by Trey (Ice Cube, who also scowls, and is much too good for this kind of nonsense).

And so the conflict is enjoined! Let the motorcycle chases begin!

There's a temptation to give the filmmakers behind Torque credit for at least trying to make a story of all this; after all, they could have achieved the same effect by simply stringing together stunt race after stunt race (with a good bit of blue-screen special effects thrown in for good measure), dispensing totally with any narrative sense. It's tempting, but let's not.

Instead, let's marvel dismissively at a movie that's as relentlessly dumb as anything put on screen this young millennium. The motorcycles in Torque race at blinding speeds along the tops of trains, through crowded city streets, out the backs of trucks, into caves and probably through monasteries (after a while, the settings start blurring into one another).

This is a movie where the only adjective that means anything is cool, and true to its pedigree, there's plenty of cool on display; Ford is scruffy cool, Shane is slinky cool, Trey is gangsta cool, Henry is homicidal cool. There's even Henry's goth-cool girlfriend, China, played by Jaime Pressly, whose characterization consists of licking her lower lip.

True, Torque isn't aiming high, and it does what it sets out to do well enough; the movie's pace is exhausting, the chases exciting. Then again, the same can be said for most video games, which are both cool and mercifully short.

Torque

Starring Martin Henderson, Monet Mazur, Ice Cube

Directed by Joseph Kahn

Rated PG-13 (violence, sexuality, language and drug references)

Released by Warner Bros. Pictures

Time 81 minutes

Sun score

*1/2

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