Joy Ride (2001) Movie Review

Don’t mess with truckers.” Or at least that’s the lesson of John Dahl’s Joyride, a movie that is part Slasher and part Suspense Thriller.

Joyride opens with college freshman Lewis (Paul Walker) in California pining for childhood friend turned college hottie Venna (LeeLee Sobieski), who unfortunately is going to a college in Colorado. As soon as Venna tells him she’s looking for a ride home for the summer, Lewis sells his plane ticket home and buys an old car. On the way to pick up Venna, Lewis takes a reluctant detour to pick up Fuller (Steve Zahn), his a–hole of a brother, from a Salt Lake City jail. It’s with a–hole brother Fuller in tow that Lewis runs into trouble. First the a–hole of a brother convinces Lewis to impersonate a girl on a CB radio and lure in lonely truckers to “have fun” with them. Lewis reluctantly agrees (mostly after being badgered and bullied into it by his a–hole of a brother), and soon has reeled in a horny fellow with a deep, thick voice.

After a night of fun at the trucker’s expense, Lewis’ a–hole of a brother then convinces Lewis it’ll be a blast to trick the trucker into coming over to a motel room late at night to tick off a racist motel customer. The trucker does come, but bad things happen, and the racist motel customer ends up in the middle of the road with his jaw torn off and half-dead. The two brothers tell the police their story, and as soon as they hit the road again, our not-so-friendly (and as it turns out, he’s also without-a-sense-of-humor) trucker appears to tail the brothers. Worst, the unamused trucker has just seen them pick up Venna from her college dorm, and my oh my does he have a lot of games still planned for the night…

Joyride is written by Clay Tarver and J.J. Abrams (TV’s “Alias” creator). The movie sports a well-known (at least in movieland) director in John Dahl (The Last Seduction) and two rising stars in LeeLee Sobieski (The Glass House) and Paul Walker. Joyride also gets my vote for the most “Wow, I didn’t know that was gonna happen” movie of the year, because I certainly didn’t have a clue that what actually happened in the film was going to happen. If nothing else, I have to give the movie credit for surprising me.

Another thing that I liked about Joyride is that it’s completely down to Earth. Nothing happens in this film that couldn’t actually happen in real life. That’s the problem with so many Slasher films. They forget that it’s about people killing people, and ends up making the killer a superhuman freak that can be anywhere and everywhere at once. The killer, or slasher, in Joyride is the trucker who gets the trick played on him by Lewis and his a–hole of a brother. The guy is ticked off and he wants payback — big time. The whole movie is incredibblly plausible, except for the ending, which I believe was tacked on to provide an opening for a sequel. (After all, what self-respecting Slasher movie wouldn’t leave room open for a sequel?)

I am once again reminded of just how much Paul Walker sounds, looks, and “acts” like Keanu Reeves. Walker still has the same bow-legged walk that he showcased in the same year’s Fast and the Furious. LeeLee Sobieski really doesn’t enter the picture until the 50-minute mark, and that’s when the film really kicks into gear. Since this isn’t an “actor’s movie” Sobieski doesn’t get to flex her muscles and just comes along for the ride (no pun intended). Steve Zahn, who plays Paul Walker’s a–hole of a brother, is fantastic as the unrepentant a–hole. After having convinced his little brother to not only get a stranger nearly killed and themselves nearly murdered on the road, the a–hole of a brother has the nerve to put the moves on Venna! What’s even more infuriating is that Zahn’s a–hole of a brother character almost gets in Venna’s pants!

Joyride is not, of course, a great film. It’s a good enough film to pass a boring night with. John Dahl doesn’t have a reputation as a flashy director, and continues that lack of a reputation here. The movie moves well, has a nice brisk pacing, and because of the down and gritty nature of the storyline, common sense dictates that nothing too “explosive” or “outrageous” happens. The film stays within the realm of possibility throughout (until the end, as previously mentioned).

So remember, boys and girls, truckers are people, too. And like people, they can get royally ticked off, so watch what you say on those CB radios. Oh, and if you happen to get a chance to pick up your a–hole of a brother from jail, let the s.o.b. rot in jail instead. He’s more trouble than he’s worth. Just ask Lewis.

John Dahl (director) / Clay Tarver, Jeffrey Abrams (screenplay)
CAST: Paul Walker …. Lewis Thomas
Steve Zahn …. Fuller Thomas
Leelee Sobieski …. Venna Wilcox

Buy Joyride on DVD