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Joseph Kahn

Ice Cube, Martin Henderson, Monet Mazur, Matt Schulze, John Doe, Jay Hernandez, Will Yun Lee, Lance Gilbert, Jaime Pressly
Writing Credits:
Matt Johnson

Biker Cary Ford (Martin Henderson) is in possession of several motorcycles belonging to a ruthless drug dealer. Now he's putting the squeeze on Ford in an attempt to retrieve the bikes, which have something a little more valuable than gas in their tanks.

Box Office:
$40 million.
Opening Weekend
$11.442 million on 2463 screens.
Domestic Gross
$21.176 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $27.95
Release Date: 5/18/2004

• Audio Commentary with Director and Cast
• Audio Commentary with Director and Technical Crew
• Racing Animatic
• Train Animatic
• Music Video
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Torque (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 7, 2004)

With the success of 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, an inevitable line of similarly-themed movies appeared. Of course, we got a sequel to Furious itself and a number of other flicks that went for the same extreme sports/”need for speed” 20-something crowd.

For the latest take on this theme, we go to Torque. The film quickly establishes its thesis, as we see two pocket rockets race down a desert highway only to have a dude on a motorcycle pass both of them. Ridden by Ford (Martin Henderson), he goes to a small diner where the rather angry drivers of those cars confront him. He wallops them and soon meets up with fellow biker buddies Val (Will Yun Lee) and Dalton (Jay Hernandez). We learn that Ford just returned from Thailand; he was “on the run” and came back to “make things right”. He also wants to see his old flame Shane (Monet Mazur).

Yet another confrontation ensues when Ford encounters old rivals Trey (Ice Cube) and his gang. Ford and crew get out of this and go on their way, but it seems likely to rise again eventually. Ford soon reconnects with Shane, who doesn’t seem happy to see him. When he split, he left her in the lurch while federal agents sought Ford as a drug dealer.

As Ford tries to explain his side of things, yet another clan with a grudge against the dude appears. Led by Henry (Matt Schulze), apparently Ford misappropriated some bikes with hidden drugs inside them. Henry gives Ford until sundown to produce the bikes.

Matters complicate when Henry attempts to make a deal with Trey, but the latter rejects this enterprise. Trey’s brother Junior (Fredro Starr) orchestrated that bid, and when it falls through, Henry takes it out on the younger hoodlum. Junior ends up dead, and Henry’s girlfriend China (Jaime Pressly) falsely pins the killing on Ford. This brings in the feds as well to follow on Ford’s trail. The rest of the film follows the pursuit for Ford and his attempts to stay out of jail and alive.

No one comes to see flicks like Torque for rich characters and intricate plotting. That’s a good thing, for nothing of the sort appears in this fluffy and superficial flick. The phrase “all style, no substance” was invented for movies like this.

Torque involves a fantasy world of hot chicks and fast bikes, and for the target audience, that might be enough. To be sure, the flick generally delivers when it comes to the action sequences. We get more than a few sequences with nice stunts and driving material. The opening with the bike and the cars sets up the piece well, and it provides a few more entertaining shots in a similar vein. They’re patently absurd, such as the chase on and through a train, but they manifest some silly excitement anyway.

Unfortunately, that’s not enough to overcome the general crumminess of everything else. The actors never raise the characters beyond the level of one-dimensional caricatures, and we don’t develop any interest in them or their situations. The characters remain dull, as does the story, which seems fairly pointless and cartoony. Some aggressive product placement doesn’t help; one climactic shot actually frames the participants in front of giant billboards for two brands of soft drink!

Essentially, Torque feels like little more than a 90-minute music video. With its vibrant colors, aggressive rock music and quick-cutting, it produces style to spare but fails to offer anything approaching a coherent movie. That may be good enough for some but it wasn’t for me.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

Torque appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A few modest concerns kept this one from “A” level, but it seemed pretty solid overall.

Sharpness consistently looked good. The image remained crisp and detailed throughout the movie, and I detected no signs of softness. However, some mild but noticeable edge enhancement did cause some concerns, along with slight shimmering on a few occasions. Print flaws seemed absent, though I detected some light artifacting on occasion.

Colors appeared very solid. Throughout the film they came across as vibrant and distinct, with no signs of bleeding, noise, or other defects. At times they came across as somewhat oversaturated, but intentionally so, as the palette tended to run quite hot. The bright neon paint of the many bikes looked especially vivid, but all of the hues seemed accurate and lively. Black levels also were reasonably deep and dense, and shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. Many parts of Torque were absolutely stellar, but the moderate number of concerns dropped this one to a “B+”.

One might expect a dynamic soundtrack from Torque, and the flick’s Dolby Digital 5.1 audio lived up to the anticipated levels. The soundfield definitely seemed active, as all five channels received a pretty strong workout. Not surprisingly, they came to life most strongly during the film’s many action/driving sequences. On those occasions, bikes whizzed past fairly effectively and the spectrum became pretty convincing and engrossing. The elements blended together well and panned from side to side nicely. Music received a good five-channel mix, as various song and score elements often emanated from all around the spectrum. Of course, the effects also came from many different areas, and they seemed to be well localized as a whole.

Audio quality appeared very good. Dialogue remained natural and distinct throughout the film. I detected no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music seemed loud and vivid, as the rock/techno/rap score came across with clear and appropriately pounding tones. Bass response for the music was especially deep and heavy; these tunes really rocked the subwoofer and woke up all the neighbors – even those who weren’t asleep! The effects showed similar tones; the low-end for those elements wasn’t quite as dense, but it still roared at times, particularly when the film wanted to depict the sound of the engines. Effects also seemed clean and vibrant, and they lacked any distortion or other concerns. Ultimately, this audio provided an involving affair.

Torque comes with some extras, and we open with two separate audio commentaries. The first presents director Joseph Kahn plus actors Martin Henderson, Monet Mazur, Will Yun Lee, Jay Hernandez, Adam Scott, Matt Schulze, Fredro Starr, Justina Machado and Dane Cook, most of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat; I believe Schulze was taped separately and edited in with the rest. They cover elements like stunts, locations, and character development. We learn of some movie references and get a lot of sassiness. The participants often crack on each other and the fantastical nature of Torque, and the track presents a fairly light and lively tone.

However, we don’t get a lot of real information about the movie. Mostly the folks joke around, and while this makes the piece moderately fun, it doesn’t tell us much. In addition, a surprising amount of dead air occurs given the number of participants. Ultimately, this comes across as a sporadically enjoyable but erratic commentary.

On the second track, we get notes from director Kahn, writer Matt Johnson, director of photography Peter Levy, visual effects supervisor Eric Durst, supervising sound editor Tim Gedemer, 2nd unit director Gary Davis, editor David Blackburn, and production designer Peter Hampton. Most of them sit together for the running, screen-specific discussion; it appears that Johnson sits separately.

Not surprisingly, this piece mainly concentrates on technical areas. We get lots of good information about the various topics. We hear about big changes from the original script to the screen as well as the development and execution of sound effects, visual elements, and stunts. We learn about the editing process and choices plus many other topics. The track suffers from a little too much praise and happy talk, but it includes enough solid information to make it a useful program.

Two separate animatics appear. One looks at the film’s opening “Racing” scene (83 seconds) while the other presents the “Train” sequence (two minutes, 50 seconds). The first shows a splitscreen comparison between the storyboards and the final film, while the second offers storyboards on top, computer pre-vis in the middle, and the actual movie at the bottom. We also get commentary from director Kahn for the first one, and Kahn plus visual effects supervisor Eric Durst for the second. In “Racing’, Kahn talks about his various concerns and goals. “Train” includes notes about how the computer animatics helped plan for the complex sequence as well as some solutions to problems. The pieces seem short but moderately informative.

We also get a music video for Youngbloodz’ “Lean Low”. It uses a typical format in that it combines movie clips and simple lip-synch performances. The video’s dull and the song stinks.

Torque opens with a few trailers. We find ads for The Big Bounce and Love Don’t Cost a Thing. The theatrical trailer for Torque itself also appears on the DVD.

A movie so dumb it makes The Fast and the Furious look brilliant, Torque offers occasional cartoon thrills but nothing else. With plastic characters, silly situations and flashy visuals, it doesn’t offer any substance and seems totally obsessed with looks and style. The DVD presents high quality picture and audio plus a few good extras, though don’t expect a long roster of supplements. If you can’t get enough of high-speed action, Torque may satisfy you, but I can’t say much for this dopey flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.0333 Stars Number of Votes: 30
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