- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Viewers have come to expect an alternative universe within “The Fast and the Furious” and its sundry clones where the races mix interchangeably, the women are all post-breast enlargement puffy, and posted speed limits are signposts to be mocked.

“Torque” takes those conceits and hits the accelerator, leaving viewers gagging on exhaust fumes and dizzy from the revving engines and ear-blasting soundtrack.

Director Joseph Kahn, another music video school graduate making his big screen debut, shows an ability to burn images upon the retina and translate speed to screen few can match. Too bad it makes not a lick of sense. Not a motorcycle chase atop a speeding train and certainly not the street race finale that severs any remaining connection “Torque” has with reality.

Martin Henderson is Cary Ford — just Ford, in action film parlance — and he’s back in town after six months hiding out in Thailand. He left his girlfriend Shane (Monet Mazur, genetically engineered for a role like this) when a local drug lord (Matt Schulze) chased him out of town for hiding his stash of motorcycles laden with crystal meth.



Worse, said drug lord tricks dyspeptic biker Trey (Ice Cube) into thinking Ford just offed his brother. If that wasn’t enough to ruin Ford’s day, an FBI agent (Adam Scott, who could out-smug Dennis Miller) is hot on his oh-so-obvious trail.

All Ford has to do is prove he didn’t kill Trey’s brother, beat the drug lord at his own framing game and show the agent he isn’t such a bad guy after all.

“Torque” teases us with Playboy-esque damsels and fetishistic motorcycle pans and serves up some welcome comic relief in the shape of a weekend motorcycle warrior who gets a knuckle sandwich from the drug lord.

Later, when Ford tosses off the line, “I live my life a quarter mile at a time,” a direct nod to “The Fast and the Furious,” Shane snaps back, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

These witty, compact moments quickly scatter like roaches hit by a flashlight beam as another motorcycle whizzes past at or near the speed of sound.

2001’s “The Fast and the Furious” was a guilty pleasure for car aficionados, a candy-colored romp without any pretensions to narrative legitimacy. “Torque” ups the ante considerably.

A duel between the film’s uber-sexy femme fatales (Miss Mazur and an unrecognizable Jaime Pressly) turns their cycles into rock ‘em sock ‘em robots with bald product placements in the background.

“Torque’s” finale is a jaw-dropping race that shatters all known laws of physics and a few as yet undiscovered. It’s a rush, for sure, but it’s like a driving simulation that tests how well your computer handles colors and sound.

“Torque” finds the right level of cartoon heroics in the opening scene and never loses that sense of proportion. For the remainder of its scant 81 minutes, only our senses are engaged, nothing more.

Of course, from a movie called “Torque” we have no right to expect more.

**

WHAT: “Torque”

RATING: PG-13: (Vehicular violence, crude fisticuffs, harsh language)

CREDITS: Directed by Joseph Kahn. Written by Matt Johnson. Produced by Brad Luff and Neal H. Moritz.

RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www2.warnerbros.com/torque/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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