2004, Movie, PG-13, 81 mins


From the post-2 FAST 2 FURIOUS road to brain death, it's hard to imagine that earlier riffs on America's love affair with hot wheels, from THE WILD ANGELS (1966) to the satirical DEATH RACE 2000 (1975), were once considered pointless exercises in shameless exploitation. Pretty-boy biker Cary Ford (Kurt Russell-lookalike Martin Henderson) returns to California after six months on the lam in Thailand, evading cops who mistakenly think he's a motorcycle thief and big-time meth dealer. He did boost a pair of bikes from cycle-savage Henry James (Matt Schulze), but only because James was hiding drugs in them; Ford intended to blow the whistle on James, but somehow things went very wrong and he had to flee. The ensuing mess cost him the love of biker-babe-next-door Shane (Monet Mazur), who's mad that the police raided her repair shop and ruined her business, and mad as hell that Ford ran out on her without a word. Looking to restore his reputation, bring down James and win back Shane, Ford teams up with best friends Dalton (Jay Hernandez) and Val (Will Yun Lee) and strikes out for Barstow's annual biker rally. En route, he offends old acquaintance Trey (Ice-Cube), by making Trey's brother look foolish. Though Ford patches things up with Shane, he finds himself in new trouble after James — still seething about his stolen drugs — concocts a Machiavellian scheme to get them back. James convinces Trey that Ford murdered his brother, forcing Ford to hotfoot it back to Los Angeles with both Trey's gang and a pair of undercover FBI agents (Adam Scott, Justina Machado) who seem to know an awful lot about Ford's movements in pursuit. Music-video director Kahn's feature-film debut, a riot of kandy-colored custom machines, cheesy leather gear and don't-try-this-at-home stunt shenanigans so video-game-like you have to remind yourself all those stunt riders must have been paid for something is awesomely vapid and over-styled, which is a flabbergasted putdown, not a backhanded compliment. Watching it is the closest thing yet to seeing a first-person driving game play itself and, excepting the stocky Ice-Cube, its stars all appear to have been computer generated by someone whose notion of what people look like was shaped entirely by anime and porn. The final irony is that it's tailored for a PG-13 audience: The violence is bloodless, the sex is all come-on and the surreally reckless stunts cater to viewers too young to drive. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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