This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


Were Joseph Kahn’s wrong turns on “Torque” actually right?

Were Joseph Kahn’s wrong turns on “Torque” actually right? (photo)

Posted by on

The weekly film review podcast The /Filmcast features three regular hosts, David Chen, Devindra Hardawar, Adam Quigley, and a guest host that changes each week. Typically, those guests are critics — both Alison and I have appeared on past episodes — but the show has also featured appearances by directors, including Kevin Smith and Rian Johnson, amongst others. Last week’s guest was music video and commercial director Joseph Kahn, who came on to review the remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and, during the show’s “After Dark” segment, defend his lone feature film, the divisive motorcycle action spectacular “Torque.”

The film, which stars Martin Henderson, Ice Cube, and Monet Mazur was released in 2004 to mostly poor reviews (Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 23%), worse box office (Domestic Gross: $21.2 million), and a few ardent supporters. Loudest amongst “Torque” partisans was Armond White who, in his typically contrarian New York Press review of the film called it “a B-movie in the Xbox era…an exhilarating combination of Pop and Art.” He even went so far as to compare the “Torque” experience to “big-screen ecstasy,” though he spelled the word as “ecstacy,” so maybe he means something other than what I think he means.

I saw “Torque” in theaters back in 2004 and at the time found it to be a shamelessly goofy retread of “The Fast and The Furious” from “TFatF” producer Neal H. Moritz. Which is why I was particular intrigued by Kahn’s defense of the film, which is, in essence, that it was a shamelessly goofy retread of “The Fast and the Furious” by design. As Kahn explained on The /Filmcast, “I wanted to do [with] “Fast & Furious” movies what “Evil Dead II” did with horror films: do a piss-take version of it…These are stupid-ass movies. What if I made one that was really fucking stupid?”

05122010_torque3.jpgAs defenses of films go, Kahn’s is borderline genius, because it automatically excuses any flaw the film might — and definitely does — have. When Henderson’s Cary Ford fights two meatheads, loses his weapon in one shot, then magically has it back in his hand in the next, it’s not bad editing; it’s a wry commentary on bad editing. When Ford leaps on a souped-up bike, and sunglasses appear on his face out of nowhere, it’s not a continuity gaffe; it’s a wry commentary on continuity gaffes. When bad guy Henry James (Matt Schulze) talks in an intense angry whisper even though he’s in the middle of a raging dance club, it’s not a dumb acting choice; it’s a wry commentary on dumb acting choices. And so on.

The defense is genius; I’m just not sure most of “Torque” is. As Kahn acknowledges, while he intended the film to be a parody of “The Fast and the Furious,” Moritz and the rest of the producers and executives didn’t necessarily agree with him. “The person that [hired] me got fired a week before the movie came in,” Kahn told The /Filmcast, “and literally a week before the movie got made, the script got rewritten… the reality of the [film] is it was my intention slamming right up against what the studio wanted, which was essentially a cheap ‘Fast & Furious’ knockoff.”

05122010_torque.jpgThe friction is evident in the movie. “Torque” does have a few clever sequences, but before the genuinely insane (and genuinely hilarious) finale — which includes a very memorable sequence where two women fight not only on their bikes, but with their bikes as well — it often looks more like the “Fast & Furious” knockoff Warner Bros. wanted than the parody Kahn wanted. On the “Torque” DVD commentary, screenwriter Matt Johnson makes it clear he didn’t write a comedy; he describes the film as a spaghetti western on motorcycles, and even goes so far as to compare Henderson’s character to Clint Eastwood’s The Man With No Name (I guess because both guys have brown hair and need a shave). And despite Kahn’s I-meant-to-do-that attitude, most of the film’s Cro-Magnon macho posturing — and “Torque” is at least 64% Cro-Magnon macho posturing — reads more as sincerity than sendup.

Still, Kahn’s candid comments do increase “Torque”‘s rewatch value, if only as a example of what happens when director and studio collide on-screen (which is particularly appropriate, since the other 36% of “Torque” is things colliding on-screen). As Kahn put it, “The guy who made ‘Torque’ was an angry dude who just wanted to fuck the studio on a certain level.” He fucked with audiences too, which is as good an explanation as any why they mostly hated the movie. Most parodies cater to the people who know and love the movies their spoofing; “Young Frankenstein” isn’t an argument against Universal Horror, it’s a celebration of what makes those movies fun. “Torque,” on the other hand, doesn’t just mock “The Fast and the Furious” conventions. By disguising itself so thoroughly as an imitator of the film, it also mocks anyone dumb enough to want to see it.

[Photos: “Torque,” Warner Bros., 2004.]

Watch More

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

Watch More

A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

Watch More

WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

Watch More