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  Torque The Fast ShowBuy this film here.
Year: 2004
Director: Joseph Kahn
Stars: Martin Henderson, Ice Cube, Monet Mazur, Matt Schulze, Jay Hernandez, Will Yun Lee, Jaime Pressly, Faizon Love, Adam Scott, Justina Machado, Max Beesley, Christina Milian, Fredro Starr, Dane Cook, John Doe, Gichi Gamba, Eddie Steeples
Genre: Comedy, Action, Thriller
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Two sports cars race through the desert along the highway, each getting ahead of the other until another presence distracts them: a motorcyclist is trying to overtake them both. They're not having that, and attempt to force him off the road, but he is too skilled a rider and soon leaves them in the dust, stopping some way off at a roadside diner. When they eventually catch up with him, the drivers get out and pick a fight, but Ford (Martin Henderson) is more than a match for them with his fists as well as his wheels, and as his two friends pull up the drivers back down. Those pals tell him he must get on with the task in hand: he has to deliver an important cargo to a powerful gang boss, Henry James (Matt Schulze), but there will be complications...

There's an exchange in Abbott and Costello meet the Mummy where Bud asks "How stupid can you get?" and Lou responds, "How stupid do you want me to be?" which seems to have become more relevant as the decades have passed. Certainly in 2004, director Joseph Kahn, an extremely successful creator of pop and rock videos, thought he could get as stupid as it was possible to be with Torque and still get away with it when those audiences were in on the joke, but as it turned out, that was not to be the case. In fact, very few viewers got the joke: Kahn hated the Fast and Furious franchise and wanted to send it up something rotten, which was the point of this, but so dedicated was he to that, hardly anyone could distinguish it from the original.

So you had motorbikes instead of cars, and a sign spinning at the beginning to read "CARS SUCK" as a heavy hint that this was less than convinced by action bromance between muscular dudes to the exclusion of anything that resembled the physical world, but somehow the majority thought Kahn was deadly serious and any humour here was a put on that was paying tribute to the very films he detested. There's a lesson there: make sure your audience are well aware you are joking when adopting the language and trappings of what you are taking the mickey out of, because often a sly wink looks as if you are aiming to indulge in what you seek to condemn, which was what happened to Torque; yet for those who did understand, this became a cult item.

In spite of it being more fashionable to bash it, they could see where it was going so far over the top that it might as well have been a Tex Avery cartoon, with its ludicrously macho characters - and that included the women - butting heads over the crime plot that had brought them together. Mind you, it appeared the cast were not entirely aware they were in a comedy, or at least a satire, either, which may have indicated the illusion of paying tribute to stunt-and-CGI-filled millennial action flicks was all too complete. Ice Cube, for example, an antagonist turned ally for Ford who initially thinks the biker murdered his brother before realising Henry did it, essayed his role to the hilt, not any different from his performance in the xXx sequel around the same time, and Henderson himself was admirably straightfaced throughout.

But then again, take a look at those action scenes and you would see something so ludicrous that you would be bemused to learn anyone, least of all the filmmakers, intended it as sincere. The part everyone recalled was where Henderson is chased on his bike by Ice Cube (also on a bike) and they happen across a train going by, so naturally they ride up a handy ramp to jump onto the rooves of its carriages, continuing the pursuit. These stunts were so patently unrealistic that in an earlier era audiences would be chuckling away, indeed Michelle Yeoh had tried something similar in Police Story III: Supercop which Kahn must have been aware of, but against all reason Torque took the notion even further thanks to the use of special effects to create a sequence utterly unreal. This would be his signature move, fashion a scene that could only have happened in animation, and frequently looked that way, and just go with it. Unfortunately for him, no matter how daft an action thriller can get, most people want to believe in its world, and if you cannot do that you lose their faith in the entertainment. Maybe it was a stupid idea after all? Music by Trevor Rabin (all wailing and grinding electric guitars, of course).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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