Cary Ford: "I'd rather be fast than invisible. Wouldn't be any fun if it was easy, right? I live my life a quarter mile at a time."
Shane: "That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard."
Considering that I'm one of the few who actually enjoy these loud, obnoxious, and over-the-top films, embracing them for what they are, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm in the minority here passing these kind of movies as underrated gems. If so, so be it. Considering that I just praised another highly criticized film the other day, I'm sure there's a lot more to come.
23% at Rotten Tomatoes and a 4.0 rating at IMDB, Torque
came at a time when The Fast and the Furious
franchise was gaining traction with the release of 2 Fast 2 Furious
. Unlike its dumber cousin, this was actually a (relatively) smarter version with doses of self-aware humor. Upon its release, it was misunderstood as a carbon copy of that other racing franchise when if you dig a little deeper and examine it, you could see that it's clearly mocking it for all it's worth in the likes of Scream
. Seeing how unpopular this movie was, it seems that the '90s self-aware phase had completely sizzled out by 2004, however.
Yes, you have testosterone-filled chauvinists who make sexual innuendos at the ladies - but at the same time, the ladies toss back their own derogatory remarks about the male privates, gender equality. Not to mention the more obvious fact that these ladies know how to handle themselves as it's often repeated by the main character's bud, Dalton (Jay Hernandez from Hostel
). They don't take no bullsh*t from men, and aren't exactly the generic accessory partnered with the male characters, especially Shane (Monet Mazur), the brains of the main cast who's often the one coming up with the plan and still manages to kick ass against the villain's girlfriend, China (Jaime Pressly whom I totally didn't recognize despite seeing her name in the opening credits).
But let's get real. This isn't a movie that tries to be the more feministic or even intelligent version of F&F. It's merely a somewhat smarter movie that still manages to provide enough twists and deconstructions to give me a great time, and that's more than enough to separate itself from its terrible reputation. Particularly refreshing was the twist revolving round FBI Agent McPherson (played by the terribly underrated Adam Scott). He played off his character like any fast-talking scumbag Fed you would see on film that you wouldn't pay much attention to him because every movie-Fed's a scumbag for some reason. But NOPE. The more realistically professional and somber (though equally hardass) Agent Henderson (Justina Machado) turns out to be the real deal and the fake is the guy playing your generic witty and sarcastic officer of the law. This was the kind of "Haha, you thought he's just some harmless jerk who cracks jokes, didn't you?" fourth-wall self-aware mocking revelation that ranks alongside Billy Loomis in Scream.
Furthermore, there are these little lines of dialogues that poke fun at action movies like this. The sheriff calls a murder a 'typical homicide' like he's seen it all and gets criticized by Henderson ("Oh, maybe you can explain to me what a typical homicide is"). The idea of cops showing up immediately after a murder gets called out on and gets explained away too ("Well, y'know, get this many motorheads in one place, all wearing colors, something's bound to happen. Pays to be close."). The main character Ford (Martin Henderson) throws a tantrum like some movie badass and also gets called out on ("Ford, what is wrong with you?"). There's was a clever scene where the main characters seem to get past a police roadblock via plot-convenience only to get tracked down anyway by both agents. When Ford later on switches from a bike (which is like the titular vehicle of the movie) to a car (the main form of vehicle used in F&F), he gets obstructed by traffic instead ("That's why I hate four-wheels"). Finally, when Henderson is shot at the end of the movie by the phony Fed, she ends up being alive because professional Feds that are not phonies wear bulletproof vests (not to mention getting one over on McPhonyson by blowing him away like a badass). These are just most of the dialogues I could think of that poked fun of the genre in a clever way, but I'm sure there are others.
Last but not least, the action. As much as it is a parody, we of course need some glorious motorcycle action! I mean c'mon, that's what we paid to see. And while the entire movie wasn't bloated with crazy stunt-work the entire time, I could overlook it for devoting its time on the satire stuff. When there's finally action, it gets really good, particularly that scene where they jump the bikes on top of a moving train. Why stack speeding bikes on top of a speeding train? Because it's awesome! Even this scene gets a little self-aware treatment ("It's amazing what you can do when you have no choice"). And of course, I have to talk about the Y2K, the aptly named chrome-painted bike that goes 200 in 10 seconds, ridiculously fast and furious enough as if to say "HAH! We're faster and furiouser than you!". Like, seriously, everything went blur in the blink of an eye. It was so over-the-top yet so much fun. The movie also pokes fun at this by showing how it's so fast it leaves a trail of fire - but in reality, it's really just a trail of petrol that gets utilized very creatively as a weapon to take down the main bad guy. That's an epic explosion at the end when Ford uses the petrol against the main villain.
In the end, I had fun, and the movie turns out to be smarter than I had anticipated, and smarter than before I began to write this analysis. It's definitely an overlooked movie worth more than 2 stars.