In the amusingly simple-minded and playfully over-the-top Torque, Martin Henderson plays Cary Ford, a biker who returns home after spending a year on the lamb having been set up on phony drug charges by local kingpin Henry (a steely-eyed Matt Schulze). Now he finds himself set up yet again by Henry and subsequently hunted by the F.B.I. and another rival gang leader, the sneering Trey (Ice Cube). Though it could very easily be summed up as “The Fast and the Furious with motorcycles,” Torque is a clone endowed with a pleasant self-awareness, even taking the time to poke fun at its progenitor. When one of the characters references The Fast and the Furious by saying, “I live my life a quarter mile at a time,” someone responds, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” It is this playful side to Torque, its refusal to take itself too seriously, or at least its ability to acknowledge its utter silliness, that gives the film a surprisingly endearing charm. Director Joseph Kahn indulges in spectacle that is almost liberatingly farcical. A montage of heaving breasts, soapy water and polished chrome signals Ford and his crew’s arrival at a biker festival, and the comic-bookishly intense levels of speed that Ford and Henry achieve during the film’s final motorcycle showdown seems to suck the color out of the frame and leave a sepia haze in its wake. Henderson is like a leather-clad Huck Finn, and he has this sheepish, understated, sleepy-eyed quality as an action “star” that works to undercut any sense of macho posturing. While he seemed vaguely out of place in his turn as a distant ex-boyfriend in Gore Verbinski’s The Ring, Henderson is spot-on in Torque‘s half-serious universe. The rest of the cast is pleasingly one-dimensional and harmless, with the noticeable exception of Adam Scott as F.B.I. agent McPherson, surely an example of both character and actor so infused with their own smug snideness that both are unwatchable. As a whole, however, Torque is inoffensively diverting, neither a work of inspired genre genius or mere manipulative commercial trash. Well, to be honest, it is trash, but fun trash nonetheless.
Because Joseph Kahn rapes every color in the rainbow and uses every CGI trick in the book, this video transfer is given umpteenth opportunities to fuck things up. Yeah, there's some edge enhancement here and there, but this is a seamless looking image, remarkable in fact. Skin tones are outstanding, colors are gooey but never oversaturated, and blacks are super-sleek. The fact that these ridiculously paced images look as good as they do is a testament to the work being done at Warner Home Video. Pity then that the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not as kick-ass as you might expect. Surrounds are good, dialogue is crystal clear, and the music is certainly pumping, but where's the DTS track? As good as the sound may be, isn't it kind of surprising that the sound over the opening interactive menu is better than it is during the film? Be prepared to pump up the volume.
Two commentary tracks, and I can't be bothered to write down the names of the small community of people that contribute to each one. The common link between the two is director Joseph Kahn, who reveals himself as a film junkie-he's quick to point out that his film is no more than a popcorn flick, and as such undersells the brains and sexy, sweltering rhythm of his postmodern images. These tracks may be overcrowded with voices, but because the film is only 84 minutes, you'll never be bored. Rounding out the disc are two excellent animatic storyboard comparisons (for the opening racing sequence and the outrageous train sequence), Youngbloodz's "Lean Low" music video, and theatrical trailers for Torque, Love Don't Cost a Thing and The Big Bounce.
Don't miss Torque for the best cockfight ever filmed involving biker hoochies, switchblades and soft drink logos.