Joy Ride (2001)

DVD Cover (Twentieth Century Fox)
John Dahl John Dahl
Steve Zahn Steve Zahn
Paul Walker Paul Walker
Leelee Sobieski Leelee Sobieski
Jessica Bowman Jessica Bowman
Stuart Stone Stuart Stone

6.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Psychological Thriller, Road Movie, Thriller
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Review by Chad
Added: April 07, 2007
I distinctly remember seeing Joy Ride sitting on the shelf at my local video store back when it was still a new release and balking at the thought of picking it up. I mean, here is a movie that stars a bunch of fresh-faced teens in a storyline that has been done over and over again (well, basically), and if that just wasn't enough, the cover image is of the "floating head" variety that the studios love to recycle for each of their teen horror films of the week. I never did get around to renting it, but then it came on one of the movie channels one night and I decided to give it a shot. My opinion of the film then was much the same as it is tonight after having rewatched it: damn, was I ever wrong in my initial assumptions.

Fuller (Steve Zahn) and Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker) are a pair of brothers who are heading across the country for two very different reasons. Lewis wants to pick up his soon-to-be girlfriend Venna (Leelee Sobieski) from college and possibly score some booty, while Fuller is fresh out of jail and simply looking for a place to crash. Before picking up Venna, the two decide to have a little fun on their CB radio at the expense of a trucker who calls himself "Rusty Nail", and they do so by having Lewis pretend to be a woman named "Candy Cane" who is quite interested in meeting up with this burly man's man at a seedy motel. Of course, they don't plan to actually meet the man face to face, but instead, they stay in one of the rooms while sending Rusty to the room next door. All fun and games, right? Well, yeah... until the man who was staying in that room winds up with his jaw ripped off courtesy of Rusty. As if a guilty conscience wasn't enough, Rusty is now hellbent on making these two teens pay for their joke and stalks them and Venna across the country in his eighteen-wheeler.

See, that plot is what was running through my head when I first saw this video sitting on the shelf six years ago. It'd been done numerous times before with mixed results, but when you throw in a bunch of straight-off-of-WB teens in the starring roles and wring the whole thing through the Hollywood horror system (which seems to be aimed at only scaring twelve-year-old girls), well... I left it on the shelf for ages if that tells you anything about how I thought it'd turn out. Surprisingly, I was wrong: Joy Ride takes a well-worn plot and builds on it with some excellent direction and some truly shocking moments, and the end result is the surprise hit of the year (well, if the year was 2001, but you know).

What I liked most about this film was the fact that it was actually a pretty smart piece of work. The heroes do everything right as the movie moves along (well, besides fucking around with a trucker), and yet, the plot somehow manages to keep right on churning out potholes for them to stumble across. I really wish that this fad had caught on, but it seems as though we're still stuck with stupid bimbos running "upstairs" to escape their tormentors instead of out the front door and horny couples heading into the woods to make out instead of renting a room. Getting back to the movie at hand, this was a truly refreshing change of pace and made the film that much more exciting; gone are the scenes in which you find yourself saying "Well, why didn't he just...?" and shaking your head in disbelief at their stupidity, replaced with plenty of scenes which will have you saying "Yep, that's what I would have... oh, shit."

Check it out if you haven't done so already. There's a few flaws to be found - the acting is hit or miss depending on the scene and there are a few moments which develop by movie logic instead of reality - but on the whole, it's a surprisingly entertaining flick. 8/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 04/08/2007, 06:12 PM
Funny you posted this -- I just purchased it in the $5.50 bin at Wal-Mart two days ago. I loved this film. I thought it was a well-executed thriller and it reminded of other great films like "Duel" and "Breakdown". Both Paul Walker and Steve Zahn did bang-up jobs, and Ted Levine was the perfect choice for the voice of Rusty Nail. It was hilarious listening to the extra features with Eric Roberts as Rusty Nail! 9/10.
Tristan #2: Tristan - added 04/08/2007, 07:22 PM
I saw this in theaters when I was too young to get into From Hell. After watching both, I think this was the more entertaining of the two. 8/10
QuietMan #3: QuietMan - added 04/08/2007, 11:22 PM
the only paul walker movie that doesn't make me wish to be struck bind
bluemeanie #4: bluemeanie - added 04/09/2007, 10:01 AM
It is SO funny that you mentioned "From Hell" because I saw both films on the same evening.
Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg #5: Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg - added 04/19/2007, 08:10 AM
Such an entertaining thriller flick this is, which is kind of surprising given how the story would seem on paper.
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