Monthly Archives: June 2007

Review: Torque

torque_cov2.jpgYear: 2004
Director: Joseph Kahn
Starring: Martin Henderson, Ice Cube, Monet Mazur, Jaime Presley
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 37

Plot
A biker gets framed for the murder of a gang leader’s brother because he stole another gang leader’s drug-filled bikes.

Quick Review
Torque has ample eye candy, but it can’t save this film. The action fails to excite, the story is a mess, the acting stinks, and the script is transparent. Pretty much the only reason to watch this film is the gorgeous Monet Mazur, but even then it’s tough to endure all the rest.

Full Review
Torque is a sledgehammer: powerful, simple, and blunt. This movie doesn’t waste time with subtle things like a plot, a script, or acting. Getting hit with a sledgehammer tends to leave you stunned and slightly dumber, and watching Torque does that to you as well. On the whole, the negatives with this movie greatly overwhelm the positives.

Torque is more an MTV collage of loud music, flying motorcycles, snarling men, and sexy women than it is a coherent story. You’ll jump from motorcycle chase to fight to motorcycle chase with hardly time to run to the fridge for a beer. Even in collage mode, however, it doesn’t work well. For torque1a.jpga movie that banks heavily on fights and motorcycle action, it doesn’t do a good job with either. The motorcycle shots are choppy, hard to follow, and poorly constructed. Camera angles used to shoot the action pushed me away from the action rather than drew me into it. Fights are much the same. Shots are cut too quickly, and it’s hard to follow who is doing what. Special effects are insignificant. Explosions are rare and non-distinct. At times, however, the action does rise above its mediocrity. A chase scene on a train was creative and exciting, if not a tad over the top. Some of the other motorcycle stunts were original and fun, but usually they happen so fast and are edited so poorly that it’s tricky to process what happened.

Torque does move along at a refreshing, brisk, pace, but this is largely because the movie doesn’t slow down for things like developing the plot. Occasionally, the movie does spend a couple of minutes explaining what’s going on, torque2a.jpgbut it probably shouldn’t have bothered. I’d say that the plot is full of holes, but I’m kind of guessing. I honestly couldn’t understand a lot of what was going on, beyond a basic three-sentence plot description. Stuff is constantly happening that either isn’t explained or doesn’t make sense. For example, gang leader Henry James (played by Matt Schulze) wants two motorcycles back from Cary Ford (played by Martin Henderson). For some reason, James’ gang then gets up and rides to Los Angeles. They never really explain why (it does become clearer, kind of, perhaps, at the end). Apparently this happens just to give Ford and his friends a reason for riding hundreds of miles at breakneck speed. Much of rest of the movie happens in this same vein. An entire murder case hinges on matching a chain to a gear, as if that would somehow be enough to prove guilt and innocence. An FBI agent blows up an entire building, with herself inside, just perhaps for kicks. torque3a.jpgIt’s all kind of a silly, sloppy mush.

Then we come to the script and the acting, which generally follow the lead of the awful plot. The humor in the script is repetitive and trite (I get that the gangs don’t know the difference between Thailand and China, and it was mildly entertaining the first time, but do you have to keep coming back to it?). Occasionally we get a decent quote, but for the most part there is nothing notable. It’s hard to tell how bad the script is, though, because the actors do nothing with it. Ice Cube, as gang leader Trey, can’t act. Well, let me rephrase that. He can snarl. But his performance in Torque sets himself up as a candidate for worst acting role in an action movie. It’s really that bad. Matt Schulze is nearly as awful. Most of the rest of the cast follow suit, as they deadpan their lines with the emotional force of lead or shout their lines like a deaf grandfather. As an exception, Adam Scott, playing FBI agent McPherson, does bring some life to his role. Also, Martin Henderson, as the protagonist, did act well enough for me to actually care about him a bit, but that may more be a reflection on how awful everyone else was in the film than it is a reflection of of his ability.
torque4a.jpg
I should mention that Torque does deserve some credit for its ending. The final chase scene is creatively shot and a good effort at creative filmmaking. The scene doesn’t work, mind you, and fails to capture any sense of realism or excitement, but it was a unique and daring approach to a chase scene. For this risk-taking, it deserves a nod of recognition.

As I always say, if you make a crappy movie, with no plot, terrible acting, and awful action, the least you can do is give us some eye candy to distract us. I’m happy to say that in this regard, Torque gets almost everything right. I can’t say this loud enough: Monet Mazur, who plays Ford’s girlfriend Shane, is freaking gorgeous in this film. The make-up and outfitting for her are perfect, and she exudes a sensual charisma that takes away a lot of the dullness from the rest of the film. Jaime Presley, as Henry James’ girlfriend China, has a nice vibe going as well. There are also occasional beautiful women scattered about the movie. From the hunk side of things, Martin Henderson is easy on the eyes.

In the end, however, all the eye candy in the world can’t help this film. The action fails to excite, the story is a mess, the acting stinks, and the script is transparent. Pretty much the only reason to watch this film is Monet Mazur, but even then it’s tough to endure all the rest.

Score
Pace: 81
Plot: 21
Action: 39
Consistent Premise: 42
Script/Quotes: 29
Characters: 37
Acting: 31
Villain: 22
Body Count: 5
Time to First Dead Body: 25 minutes, 22 seconds
Babes: 87
Hunks: 83
Explosions: 22
Special Effects: 15
Stunts: 54
Ending: 30

Overall: 37 (Subtract 14 if Monet Mazur and Jaime Presley weren’t in it)

[tags]Torque, movie review, action movie, Martin Henderson, Ice Cube, Monet Mazur, Jaime Presley[/tags]

Up Next: Torque

I was in the mood for some fast vehicles and fun racing last night. I stumbled across Torque in that box of $1 tapes I bought from Hollywood video. This 2004 motorcycle film looked like it would fit the bill, so I gave it a look. I’ll post my review sometime over the weekend.

Preview Impressions: Transformers

transformers8a.jpgI have to admit, I cringed when I heard that a Transformers movie was on the way. Why pick up the Transformers name? Why not start with something original? This is the type of concept that dooms itself to negative reviews. How can a legitimate reviewer entertain the thought of giving this film a positive review? I pictured a cheesy, clunky film thrown together in order to rake in profits from toy, clothing, and game merchandising.

I mean, look at this TV Show intro:

Nothing against children’s animated TV shows, but it I find it hard to believe a Transformers TV cartoon could be the basis of a good Hollywood action movie. When I saw the teaser, about six months ago, it did nothing to dispel my concerns. There wasn’t much to see.

However, in the past couple of months I’ve seen two new trailers.

Wow. There are some incredible action scenes here. The special effects look brilliant. The attention to detail in the scenes looks meticulous. The robots convey a strong sense of weight, power, and speed. Dare I say it: They look real. The story looks cheesy and generic, for sure, and there are always concerns about the film’s editing, but the second trailer in particular blew away all my negative preconceptions about the film. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this film could be a winner. If they can sustain the pace of the trailers in the movie, Transformers just might be an outstanding action movie. I still have my doubts, but the film moved well up on my radar. I’m looking forward to the release, on July 3, 2007.

Prediction: 73

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Review: Die Hard 2: Die Harder

dh2_cov.jpgYear: 1990
Director: Renny Harlin
Starring: Bruce Willis, William Sadler, Bonnie Bedelia, John Amos
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 62

Plot
Terrorists attempt to extricate a captive foreign dictator being flown to the United States by remotely taking control of Dulles airport’s traffic control system. Policeman John McClane tries to stop them.

Quick Review
I find myself with mixed feelings about Die Hard 2: Die Harder. The action is surely entertaining. The characters and acting draw you into the film. The movie has good acceleration. But undermining all of this are fundamental problems with the premise and plot of the movie. While I watched this film, I consistently found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the silliness of what was going on, and this is a sharp and negative contrast to the original Die Hard. In the end, these problems drag the film down substantially.

Full Review
One of the outstanding elements of the first Die Hard was the tightness of the plot, the believability of the premise, and the overall intelligence of John McClane and the terrorist leader Hans Gruber. The pitched battle between the two men raised the overall quality of the film.

Unfortunately, in this regard, the sequel Die Hard 2: Die Harder fails miserably. This is a great movie with a ridiculous premise and with plot holes that total drunkedness can’t cover up. In short, Die Hard 2 doesn’t make sense. Were these minor issues with the plot or premise it’d be easy to overlook them, but they’re not. The problems with Die Hard 2 lie at the foundation of the film, and they significantly impact the quality of the film.

dh21.jpgDie Hard 2 is built on the premise that terrorists could remotely shut down an airport tower’s control over the planes in its airspace, shut down the runway lighting system, and then take control of the communications with the planes. The planes then can’t land until the terrorists’ demands are met. The problem with this is that it doesn’t make sense on so many levels. As soon as the airport gets shut down, airport officials could use any one of a number of alternate means to communicate with the planes and reroute them to any one of a handful of nearby airports. In other words, the premise that the terrorists have hostages in the air is broken, and it takes a lot of effort to suspend disbelief.

Even granting this premise, one could logically assume that the planes could land visually, but apparently the terrorists removed that possibility as well by planning a major snowstorm to coincide with the captured dictator’s flight. Sigh. There are many other areas where Die Hard 2 is generally sloppy. For example, Bruce Willis, who once again plays John McClane, flitters around the airport amazingly quickly, and occasionally finds that the quickest route is to crawl hundreds of yards through narrow venting. Elsewhere, there is only one guard on the plane carrying the extradited dh22.jpgdictator to the United States. In another scene, a semi-trailer truck magically appears out of nowhere during a snowmobile chase. Even the terrorists’ escape plan—to demand an empty 747 for escape—makes no sense given that the US could shoot the plane down once it leaves the airport. Given the relatively tight logic in the first Die Hard, I found these holes in the second movie hard to overlook.

Fortunately, if you turn off your brain for Die Hard 2 (or drink a lot of beer), you’ll find the other aspects of the movie equal to the original Die Hard. Some of the action scenes are a bit loosely constructed and choppy compared to those of Die Hard, but overall the action in Die Hard 2 is solid and well integrated into the movie. There are rough fistfights and fast gunfights. The explosions are few in number but spectacular and gripping when they occur. Stunts fit in well with the story and are believable. The pace holds up well, with only minor derailments due to a subplot involving television reporter Richard Thornburg (William Atherton). Although I’ve criticized the plot, on a micro-level it works quite well. The villains I found a comparable to those of Die Hard; they are convincing enough to help the movie’s rating. The ending—although it puts even more stress on the film’s believability—is incredibly exciting.

Acting is comparable to the original, which is to say that Willis once again nails the sarcastic, intelligent, and likeable nature of John McClane. In some ways, however, I felt he had a more demeaning edge to him in this movie, which made him a bit arrogant. The script gets the job done, and Willis does quite a bit to enhance it. McClane gets decent support from William Sadler (Colonel dh23.jpgStuart, the leader of the terrorists) and John Amos (Major Grant, leader of the anti-terrorist force), and Bonnie Bedelia (Holly McClane).

The Babe rating for this movie is much like the original. Bonnie Bedelia is cute, but her role is minor and neutered. The Hunk rating is better, but Willis has slipped past his prime in the looks department. The rest of the cast doesn’t bring anything notable in this regard to the movie, with the exception of an unusual naked martial arts exhibition by the lead terrorist at the beginning of the movie.

In conclusion, I find myself with mixed feelings about Die Hard 2: Die Harder. The action is surely entertaining. The characters and acting draw you into the film. The movie has good acceleration. But undermining all of this are fundamental problems with the premise and plot of the movie. While I watched this film, I consistently found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the silliness of what was going on, and this is a sharp and negative contrast to the original Die Hard. In the end, these problems drag the film down substantially.

Fun Fact

Die Hard 2, with its $70 million budget, cost $42 million more to make than the original Die Hard.

Related Reviews
Die Hard, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard

Score
Pace: 82
Plot: 54
Action: 82
Consistent Premise: 22
Script/Quotes: 83
Characters: 92
Acting: 86
Villain: 77
Body Count: 23
Time to First Dead Body: 7 minutes, 17 seconds
Babes: 2
Hunks: 66
Explosions: 83
Special Effects: 52
Stunts: 53
Ending: 71

Overall: 62 (Solid if you Disengage Brain before Viewing)

[tags]Die Hard 2, Die Hard, movie review, action movie, film, Die Harder, Bruce Willis[/tags]