Things I Learned From Movie X: Torque
By Edwin Davies
May 4, 2011
It's easy to be cynical sometimes, on account of how the world is a dark and terrible place which will never get any better no matter how hard we try. And I know that I too often fall into that trap with these columns. Why, in a recent poll, Things I Learned From Movie X was found to be the leading cause of cynicism in Sweden. Strange, but not easily disproved.
Today, though, I want to throw off the Dark Cloak of Cynicism in favor of the Rainbow Suspenders of Joy by celebrating the barely-remembered 2004 illegal motorbike racing/action movie Torque. Sure, a film in which Ice Cube is the main selling point has very little chance of being good, at least in the traditional sense, but I found that it's sheer ludicrosity won me over by the end - actually, that's not true; it won me over within the first five minutes - and I think that it could win a lot of other people over, too, if they would just let Torque into their hearts.
The novelization would be like War and Peace, but with motorbikes
Torque is the timeless story of Ford (Martin Henderson), a young biker who is framed for the murder of the brother of Trey (Ice Cube), the leader of a rival gang. At least, that is what it is on the surface, but the film actually seems to be about all the stuff that Ford did before this story starts. It's hard to think of Torque as having a plot of its own because everyone spends all their time talking about everything that happened before. It's a film so concerned with its own past it might as well have been written by Proust.
In fact, the film is as much a meditation on time, aging and how the past shapes us as it is about how driving bikes really fast is fucking cool. The ridiculously convoluted mythology involves Ford stealing bikes from Henry James (Matt Schulze) - note: not the author of The Portrait of a Lady, though you would be forgiven for making such an easy mistake - which, unbeknownst to him, contain crystal meth. This leads him to flee the country for fear of dragging his girlfriend Shane (Monet Mazur) into the quagmire that is his life. The central questions the audience find themselves asking whilst watching Torque - other than "why the hell am I watching Torque?" (Answer: 'Cos it's awesome) - are all about the identity of Ford. Who is he? What did he do? Does what he did in the past define who he is now, and can doing good now undo the bad he did in the past? Ultimately, the film answers this question by saying that, whilst he is a fundamentally good person, Ford will also blow up anyone who gets in his way. Truly, Ford's story is our story.
Torque makes a better argument that train travel is the future than Atlas Shrugged Part 1 ever could
If roughly half of Torque is taken up with talking about the past, the other half is spent very much in the present, with Ford and his United Colors of Benetton teammates tearing across highways, desert and forests in search of adventure and truth. Since they don't try to avoid being spotted by, I don't know, not driving their own bikes out in the open, or at the very least changing out of their signature clothing so that they aren't obviously who they are, most of their driving involves being chased by Trey and his crew, Henry James and his crew, or the somewhat casually dressed FBI agent (Adam Scott. Yes, Adam Scott.) who are after them.