[box cover]

Torque

By the end of the '80s, the drive-in movie was gentrified. With companies like Carolco making $100 million Schwarzenegger films, there was no way the Roger Corman-budgeted efforts could compete, and quickly it was Hollywood who were the masters of the B-movie, leaving others to go straight-to-video. Unfortunately, this gentrification made many of these more expensive efforts blander, more palatable to the mainstream and foreign sales, and less fun — films just don't match trashier, solidly entertaining efforts like Revenge of the Ninja (1983). They also tend to be bloated, running north of two hours. Today, B-movies include titles like The Fast and Furious (2001), which have obvious appeal but still get bogged down in character development and fail to deliver unpretentious fun. For fans of cinema du fromage, the best attempt at an honest to goodness Roadhouse-level entertainment is Joseph Kahn's Torque (2004) — which is gouda-from-heaven, cinema-cheese nirvana. Martin Henderson plays motorcycle expert Ford (his first name is Cary, but everyone calls him Ford for obvious reasons). Returning from Thailand to Los Angeles after skipping town for six months, he teams up with his old crew (Jay Hernandez, Will Yun Lee) to get back together with girlfriend Shane (Monet Mazur). Shane holds a grudge against Ford, not only because he skipped town, but because of the cops who busted up her shop in search of the drugs he supposedly hid there. Ford did have the drugs, but they were Henry James's (Matt Shulze), and Ford bailed after realizing the bikes Henry left him with were loaded with crystal meth, which the brutal Henry now wants back. Complicating things is gang leader Trey (Ice Cube), whose brother Junior (Fredro Starr) is angry at Ford. Henry murders Junior, dooming Ford to be hunted by Trey when James's girlfriend China (Jaime Pressly) vouches Ford did it. This leads to Ford being chased by Trey and his gang, the police — headed up by oddball FBI agent McPherson (Adam Scott) — and Henry and his gang as Ford tries to find the evidence that will clear him. Trying to do with motorcycles what The Fast and The Furious did for cars, Torque is 84 minutes of great action-movie nonsense. Obviously parodying the Michael Bay school of directing — while somehow managing to be more entertaining than it — everybody gets stylish hero shots and windswept pans, while the action goes to extremes (Ford and Trey race their bikes on to the top of, and then in a moving train) and focuses on such surprising angles that to complain about its disassociation from the laws of physics (Newton schmooton) is utterly beside the point. Moving at a quick clip is probably best for first-time feature director Joseph Kahn, who's spent 13 years making music videos, and he uses all the tricks of his trade — but because it lacks the pomposity of the Bruckheimer school of filmmaking, his stylishness manages to not grate. Released in January 2004 (a month that's considered a dumping ground for studios), Torque was treated as a pile of studio waste, and is (of this writing) one of the IMDb's worst 100 films of all time. Perhaps, like Roadhouse — which the film pays homage by naming a character Dalton — it will find its audience on home video. Warner presents Torque on DVD in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements includes two audio commentaries, the first with Kahn, and actors Monet Mazur, Martin Henderson, Will Yun Lee, Matt Schulze, Adam Scott, Freddo Starr, Dane Cook, Jay Hernandez, and Justina Machado, while the second features Kahn, writer Matt Johnson, cinematographer Peter Levy, visual effects supervisor Eric Durst, sound designer Tim Gedemer, second unit director Gary Davis, editor David Blackburn, and production designer Peter Hampton. Also included are two animatics, a music video, and a trailer. Snap-case.
—DSH



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