I walked out of "Joyride" a little dazed and unsure of what I had just seen. My
uncertainty was because I thought I had seen a great film but in reality, upon
closer inspection, "Joyride" is not great but it is a damn good scary ride.
"Joyride" begins with Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker) at college talking to his best
friend Venna (Leelee Sobieski) on the phone. He plans to pick her up at Colorado
and take her to back on a trip to New Jersey. On the way, Louis hears that his
brother, Fuller (Steve Zahn), has been arrested for being drunk and disorderly
in Utah. Louis picks him up on his detour and then proceeds to pick up Venna.
Before you can say "Road Trip," Fuller decides to buy a CB radio for forty
dollars ("a prehistoric Internet"). Before arriving in Colorado, they play
around with the CB and find one trucker on their frequency by the name of Rusty
Nail. Fuller convinces Louis to play a prank and pretend to be a woman named
"Candy Cane" and to meet Rusty Nail at a motel. Big mistakes are always made but
that is one mistake that should not have been made. Let's say all hell breaks
loose once they get to the motel as this truck driver turns out to be a raging
psychopath with a road rage complex.
There is nothing astounding or inspring about "Joyride" but it does have great
intensity. As directed by John Dahl ("Red Rock West"), it is so intense that you
will often be left gasping for air. It also helps that three terrific actors
have been cast who are likable enough to keep us scared for them. Paul Walker
("Pleasantville") is both sympathetic and innocuous as Lewis, a kid that looks
like a jock who wishes he were somewhere else. Steve Zahn is simply a great
comic live wire as Lewis's jailbird brother, completely funny and convincingly
scared throughout. He has one great moment where he saves Venna from some
rednecks in a bar by pretending to be as manly as possible. Kudos must also go
to Leelee Sobieski's thankless role as Venna where she has enough serene beauty
to keep her watchable in all the chaos. She has one great line when she
discovers who is chasing them: "I am not going to be scared of a radio."
As for the killer Rusty Nail, well, we never actually see him - only hear his
menacing, malicious voice. Someone said that it reminded them too much of the
killer's phone voice from "Scream." But this is not a clever pun on slasher
flicks - "Joyride" puts "Scream" and most other thrillers of late to shame. It
is a latter-day update on "Duel" and it keeps you on edge and makes you bounce
and scream. In other words, a real thriller that thrills and intensifies the
nerves. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Copyright © 2001 Jerry Saravia