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

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

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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.]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

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

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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…