Torque

Torque's title refers to the force with which an object rotates on an axis. For a film so comically straightforward, it's not a particularly apt name, but there's already a movie called Speed, and Yet Another Fast And The Furious Knockoff might not have fit on a poster. The feature debut of music-video director Joseph Kahn, Torque plunges audiences into a subculture with seemingly unlimited access to racing gear, motorcycle parts, and, presumably, wind-resistant hair products. Kahn keeps the film fast, loud, and dumb. When a chase puts its participants atop a train, he moves the camera (or its CGI equivalent) from the roof through the car itself, and back again. When hero Martin Henderson takes off his helmet, it makes a "whooshing" sound usually associated with jets. When he sums up his philosophy, it's "I live my life a quarter mile at a time." Any film about a fugitive biker who returns to clear a name smeared by drug-dealing baddies led by a character named "Henry James" probably should be loud, fast, and dumb, but it shouldn't be this embarrassing to watch. Seldom seen without his "Carpe Diem"-emblazoned jumpsuit, Henderson is a pretty sorry hero who makes his way through one action scene after another protected by little more than a smirk. The film smirks with him: Torque has a sense of humor about itself, but the laughs stick in the throat. It takes an unhealthy lack of shame, for example, to stage a cycle showdown by lining the two opponents up in front of not one, but two billboards advertising Pepsi products. As for the action, it's a weird mix of impressive-but-familiar stunt work and less-impressive CGI effects. By the time Torque concludes with a chase so phony-looking that it might as well take place in Who Framed Roger Rabbit's Toontown, it's clear that the 2004 film year has nowhere to go but up.

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