Torque is the dietary opposite of a no-carb diet. It’s all carb, no protein – and like its cousins in the ”Fast and the Furious” family, this action-heavy, content-light baby is all carburetors, too, as well as wheels, dudes, and pouting chicks. Only this time, the adrenaline is based on a theme of motorcycles and the boys and girls who love to straddle them (and afterward, presumably, each other). There is absolutely no nutritional value to the parade of races, stunts, smackdowns, brawls, jiggles, and snug leatherware assembled by director Joseph Kahn – a music-video guy who never met a side-view mirror shot he didn’t love – under the maize-colored sun of Southern California; there is only movement, tableau, character types, and splashes of bright, borrowed ssssstyle. The movie is a guzzle of yahoo-Mountain Dew empty-calorie satisfaction: A quick blood-sugar high, an eyeful of bikes and bosoms, and you’re out of the theater in 80 minutes.
And on a bleak winter’s day, that can be meal enough.
”Torque” can be useful, too, as a kind of checklist on the state-of-art-direction trends to peruse when not riveted by the cartoon violence of young folks who want to drive fast, split one another’s heads open, then drive fast some more. Certainly, the desert highway of a plot leaves plenty of time for admiring the cool ethnic mix of the players and the way every character is introduced from the feet up. (The never-gets-out-of-first-gear screenplay is by Matt Johnson.) ”The Ring”’s Martin Henderson stars as Ford, easy-rider biker hero, who expounds his philosophy by a roadside diner: ”What is it about driving cars that makes you all such a–holes?” he queries a couple of goons before clobbering them. The New Zealand-born Henderson, who has an unnerving way of looking like any Cruise-Pitt-McConaughey-handsome actor you want him to depending on how he hitches a hip, behaves more like a cocky surfer than a racer: Ford’s back from Thailand (travel note: Thailand is in) to reconnect with his biker girlfriend (Monet Mazur), who, as a bonus, is named Shane – you were expecting maybe she would be named Rivka? Ford also needs to settle a score with one drug-dealing biker-gang leader (mulleted Matt Schulze), while keeping a rival gang heavy (Ice Cube, snarling so hard that his lip quivers) out of his face and dodging a cowboy FBI agent (”High Crimes”’ Adam Scott).
As someone – biker? rapper? supermodel? bachelorette? – would say, it’s all good. Dumb, and good, the way a motorcycle chase across the top of a speeding train is dumb and good. ”Torque,” the latest hot-shot gear-stripping machine from the shop of producer Neal H. Moritz, recovers the junk-purity of ”The Fast and the Furious” and overcomes the primping and prettying of the ”Fast/Furious” sequel. It’s as shiny and showy as a Triumph TT 600, which can attain a maximum power of 110PS at 12,750 rpm and a maximum torque of 68Nm at 11,000 rpm. Which, I’m told, is something.