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Warner Home Video presents
Torque (2004)

"I ought to smash you right now, you and your tricycle friends."
- Trey (Ice Cube)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: May 18, 2004

Stars: Martin Henderson, Ice Cube
Other Stars: Monet Mazur, Jay Hernandez, Matt Schulze, Will Yun Lee, Jaime Pressly, Adam Scott, Justina Machado, Fredro Starr, Dane Cook, John Doe
Director: Joseph Kahn

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexuality, language and drug references
Run Time: 01h:23m:53s
Release Date: May 18, 2004
UPC: 085392466221
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- C-B+A+ B

DVD Review

I'll give you that there's nothing wrong with mindless entertainment, and if you happen to like overblown chase scene after overblown chase scene, then you'll probably find Joseph Kahn's Torque (sort of the motorcycle answer to The Fast and The Furious) the kind of noisy fun that should land right in your wheelhouse. That is, if you don't mind your logic-free action sequences burdened with squinty-eyed tough guys, equally feisty females, and testosterone-fueled dialogue straight out of Bad Action-Movie Writing 101.

Ford (The Ring's Martin Henderson) is a hard-riding motorcyclist who returns to his old stomping grounds somewhere in the dusty southwest, where he hooks up with his old riding partners (Will Yun Lee and Jay Hernandez), and reenters the life of his former gal pal/ace motorcycle mechanic Shane (Monet Mazur). His unexpected return is put up for grabs when he is framed for murder, finds out his head is wanted by not only the Reapers, led by Trey (Ice Cube), but by another gang—the Hellions—whose leader, Henry James (a badly mulletted Matt Schulze), apparently wants to retrieve some meth hidden in some high-tech bikes that Ford has in his possession. To further complicate things, a pair of quirky FBI agents (Adam Scott and Justina Machado) are also trailing Ford and his small gang, all of which is simply an excuse for plenty of energetic chase scenes.

The way this one is written, Torque plays out with familiar bits and pieces of a few genres (notably westerns, superhero, gang wars) all thrown into a big screenwriting blender. Ford is the steely-eyed outsider riding into town on his horse (I mean motorcycle) where bad guys want to take him down—he is even left with an "until sundown" ultimatum—and a good-hearted but battle-ready girl waits for him. Ponder the fact that her name is the none-too-subtle Shane, as if the mere mention of an Alan Ladd-inspired character is enough to "torque" some proper gunslinger roots. Everyone wears colorful biker leathers like they're all part of some two-wheeled Justice League of America, and some of the far-fetched action scenes (including one atop a moving train or the climactic 300mph logic-defying race through crowded city streets) seem the stuff of comic book or videogame heroes rather than mere mortals. And of course the chest-thumping rival gang posturing is a requirement in something like this, and everyone is so macho (even the women) in this movie at all times that I felt like I had to duck to avoid getting hit with globs of testosterone-laced bravado.

Things really get pretty silly (make that sillier) during the last half-hour, and it is as if director Joseph Kahn and screenwriter Matt Johnson gave up on even trying to present anything remotely believable, and instead veered off into total videogame territory. Monet Mazur's feisty Shane does cycle-to-cycle battle with bad girl Jaime Pressly (here decked out almost unrecognizably in full biker Goth attire) in a Matrix-eseque jousting sequence that features plenty of questionable leaping and twirling, and some of the most garish Pepsi and Mountain Dew product placements I think I have ever seen. Likewise, with the big 300mph CG chase scene, which is as wildly frenetic as it is jaw-droppingly comical.

To be fair, Kahn makes all of the illogical action sequences flow with a kind of overpumped, indestructible slickness that at the very least makes all of the Speed Racer acrobatics appealing to eyeball. It's laughably stupid all right, but at the same time undeniably cool looking. With the macho meter fully redlining, the rapid editing and relentless energy that Kahn oversees burns out quickly, and Torque doesn't even make it to the 90-minute mark (clocking in at just under 84 minutes). This is fast and loud eye candy, unconcerned and unencumbered with the trivial intricacies of plot or character development.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Warner's treatment of the mindless Torque is almost as impressive as the stellar audio mix. The entire film is filled with intensely oversaturated colors that seem to have been tweaked and boosted well beyond anything approaching natural, and this stab at high style makes Kahn's film look more like a prolonged music video than a piece of feature filmmaking, but I imagine that was intentional. There is some occasional edge enhancement and haloing that is noticeable from time to time, but it is not overbearing or too much of a distraction.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround track found here is unexpectedly outstanding, which is more than I can say about the film itself. As ridiculously big and noisy as you might anticipate, the audio mix goes well beyond the limits of being simply aggressive; this thing borders on an all-out sensory assault. Everything about the audio presentation is first-rate, with extensive discrete rear channel activity augmented by plenty of whip-fast directional pans across the front and deep, wall-rattling bass. This is meant to be played loud. Really, I mean LOUD.

A French 5.1 track (actually dubbed in Quebec) is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Love Don't Cost A Thing, The Big Bounce
Storyboard
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Joseph Kahn, Will Yun Lee, Monet Mazur, Jay Hernandez, Adam Scott, Matt Schulze, Fredro Starr, Justina Machado, Dane Cook, Matt Johnson, Peter Levy, Eric Durst, Tim Gedemer, Gary Davis, David Blackburn, Peter Hampton
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Music video
Extras Review: Torque sports two over crowded commentary tracks, with one titled The Cast and the other The Creative Team. On the cast track, director Joseph Khan is joined by actors Will Yun Lee, Monet Mazur, Jay Hernandez, Adam Scott, Matt Schulze, Fredro Starr, Justina Machado, and Dane Cook. Past experience has shown that this is just too many people on one commentary, and the usual raucous laughing and talking over one another occurs here. A few moderately salient bits of knowledge are lobbed out, usually by Kahn, such as pointing out the Kubrick and Duel references, but overall the track is just too busy.

The second track is again anchored by director Kahn, here joined by writer Matt Johnson, cinematographer Peter Levy, visual effects supervisor Eric Durst, supervising sound editor Tim Gedemer, second unit director Gary Davis, film editor David Blackburn, and production designer Peter Hampton. While certainly as crammed and crowded as the cast track, this one at least benefits from being slightly more cohesive and coherent, and considering how visually hyper kinetic Torque is, it stands to reason that the content here would be a little more substantive, and it is. Kahn talks about trying to "test the boundaries" of what an audience will accept as believable, and Gedemer reveals nuggets such as how the roar of the motorcycle engines were enhanced with bison and horse sounds. The discussion about the execution of the big chase scene atop the moving train is surprisingly interesting, and the speakers point out what was and wasn't CG effects.

A couple of storyboard vs. animatic vs. final film sequences are also provided. Racing (01m:22) covers Torque's opening sequence as compared to the storyboards, and Train (02m:49s) does the same for the desert train scene, adding in the animatic test footage as well. Director Joseph Kahn provides brief commentary for each segment.

In addition to a few trailers, Warner has also tossed in the music video for the song Lean Low (04m:04s) by Youngbloodz.

The disc is cut into 26 chapters, and features optional subtitles in English, French, or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Who needs substance when you have style?

Torque is an soul-free exercise in macho swagger and engine revving, mixed in with over-the-top chase scenes that laughably defy logic. The plot is inconsequential to the cartoonish action, and seems to exist as a placeholder between the bouts of dizzying speed and acrobatics that director Joseph Kahn seems to think will pass as substantive entertainment.

 


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