Torque
Grade: D
Year: 2004
Director: Joseph Kahn
Writer: Matt Johnson
Genre: Action
Rated: PG-13
By Scott Spicciati

Just because a movie knows it's stupid and doesn't attempt to be smart, doesn't mean we must automatically pass it off as a January flick like "The Butterfly Effect" or anything else this month with a harmless "C" rating and a "oh, that's just what we expect this time of year" statement.

"Torque" is a very bad movie and there's no simpler way to put it. The dialogue is worse than anything I saw last year and will probably be worse than most of what I see in 2004. No scene ends without a ridiculous one-liner or pause to show an advertiser's product.

The story is about a biker named Ford ("The Ring's" Martin Henderson) who resides in Los Angeles where he does stuff like ride his bike. Trouble occurs when the leader from a rival gang named Wallace (Ice Cube) thinks that Ford killed his brother at one of those seedy nightclubs.

Because there's not a cell in this film's brain, writer Matt Johnson makes no attempt to have any part of his story a mystery. We immediately know that Wallace's brother was not killed by Ford, but instead the leader from a third gang, thus prompting the three crews to go at each other. Add one Hummer driven by two rogue FBI agents and we've got a doozy.

Ford's got the help of his old-time chick friend, Shane (Monet Mazur), a rough gal who proves she deserves to ride with the best of them. She will of course duke it out with a chick from another gang, China, played by the why-do-I-do-this-to-myself actress Jaime Pressly, a goth sporting girl who flicks her tongue whenever on camera. At about the time Shane and China go head-to-head, Ford will fight it out with Wallace on every terrain, from desert sands to the roof of a moving train, and finally down the streets of New York at a blazing 200 mph.

I admit the cycle racing maintained a certain interest. It had what last year's "Biker Boyz" lacked, some kind of action. I gave both films "Ds" although I technically tolerated "Torque" much more. But the ridiculous amount of product placement is not only offensive but criminal. After enduring endless commercials in the theater proceeding the movie, I must watch a catfight between Shane and China that takes place on a stage in front of two large billboards; one displaying the logo for Pepsi the other for Mountain Dew. At this point I was no longer watching a movie but instead an 80-minute commercial.

The only thing "Torque" has going for it is the special effects which will be greatly appreciated by the teenage class, even though the CGI isn't very impressive. I guess it's hard to make a race through New York City on bikes going 200 mph look real, so what the filmmakers did was make it look like a giant blur.

I learn that Warner Bros. kept "Torque" on the shelf for two years to avoid competing with similar films like "2 Fast 2 Furious" and "Biker Boyz," one of many signs that nobody at WB had any expectations for this headache of a movie.

And to think the special effects -- the only part of the movie that is worth keeping conscience for -- is also two years old along with the film -- which is like 47 in human years. You would think the makers would have tried to clean it up a bit so the climax wouldn't look like something from a Playstation (the first one) game. But thinking anybody cared about this film would be foolish.

"Torque" is directed by Joseph Kahn, a first-time director whose previous work is limited to music videos. This fact is not an excuse to fail your first attempt at a Hollywood movie. Many first-time directors came to the set from a music video including Marcus Nispel who made the "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" an enjoyable 2003 remake.

Ice Cube has some redeeming to do, and he'll have the chance in this year's "Barbershop 2." Watching his performance in "Torque" was practically unbearable. Because his character calls for anger and revenge, Ice Cube would permanently give his character a nasty nose-scrunch you'd find on someone who forgot their reading glasses trying to use a small-print dictionary.

What a shameful movie "Torque" is. Could it not depend on box-office sales that it had to pummel us with endless advertising and product placement? You know when a film's done a few things wrong when after you watch an elaborate fight between two hot chicks, the only reaction from you is a craving for Pepsi and a bag of Doritos.

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Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. Contact Editor: Scott Spicciati