Run time: 97 mins
In Theaters: Friday 5th October 2001
Box Office USA: $21.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $22M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Bad Robot, Regency Enterprises, LivePlanet, New Regency Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Fresh: 83 Rotten: 30
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: John Dahl
Starring: Steve Zahn as Fuller Thomas, Paul Walker as Lewis Thomas, Leelee Sobieski as Venna, Jessica Bowman as Charlotte, Stuart Stone as Danny, Lewis' Roommate, Basil Wallace as Car Salesman, Brian Leckner as Officer Keeney, Mary Wickliffe as Salt Lake City Police Desk Clerk, McKenzie Satterthwaite as Assistant Salt Lake City Police Desk Clerk, Dell Yount as Gas Station Mechanic, Kenneth White as Ronald Ellinghouse, Luis Cortés as Night Manager, Michael McCleery as Officer Akins, Jim Beaver as Sheriff Ritter, Rachel Singer as Gas Station Manager, Satch Huizenga as Ice Truck Man, Terry Leonard as Bartender, Gwenda Deacon as Truck Stop Waitress, Robert Winley as Truck Stop Manager, Ali Gage as Waitress, Jack Moore as Hotwire Consultant, Hugh Dane as Man at Door, Lee Stepp as Traveling Salesman, Jay Hernandez as Marine, Huey Redwine as Policeman #1, John Maynard as Policeman #2, Peter Weireter as Policeman #3, James MacDonald as Local in Nebraska Bar
Joy Ride has clearly learned from similar, high-octane road thrillers like Breakdown. It calculates every move, but seldom do we see the surprises coming. The film explores the misadventures of a college student named Lewis (Paul Walker). Lewis is a nice guy, having just bought a used car to travel all the way across the country to help a friend in need (Leelee Sobieski). Along the way, he also stops to post bail for his troublemaking brother, Fuller (Steve Zahn), and give him a ride as well.
Fuller buys a CB radio at a gas station to chat with the truck drivers who cruise the deserted highways of Nevada, and soon they receive a signal from a man with a deep, scruffy voice who calls himself Rusty Nail. Fuller thinks it would be funny if Lewis pretended he was a woman and sexually teased Rusty Nail. Lewis reluctantly agrees and eventually invites him to a hotel. They will stay in room 18, while they tell Rusty Nail to visit room 17, where a fat, grumpy man will rest for the night.
Not a very nice thing to do, and Rusty Nail doesn't particularly appreciate the prank. So little that the police find room 17's lodger on the highway the next morning, lying in a permanent coma with the lower half of his jaw ripped off. And this is only the beginning, because Rusty Nail wants revenge, and he'll stop at nothing to get it.
Joy Ride builds an incredible amount of tension, then releases it with some startling violent encounters. This works, but eventually becomes somewhat redundant after the third or fourth time around the track. That does not terribly injure the film, however, for several reasons. We don't know who is behind the voice of Rusty Nail or the steering wheel of that massive semi, as the mystery and suspense always keep us guessing. We also care about the characters; the actors' performances are believable, as is the terrifying reality of the situation. As well, the story continually raises the stakes, introducing new conflicts and characters, and exploring new environments, thanks to a well-written script by Clay Tarver and J.J. Abrams.
Thankfully, the film doesn't go overboard with needless gore and violence. The cinematography is also some of the year's most effective work. The characters' faces dimly lit by red neon hotel lights or the soft glow of a fire, the mood contributes to the tension of the film.
Sadly, the ending an abuse of the old deus ex machina contrivance. Sure, we're on the edge of our seats, but really, it's a bit lazy.
The DVD features so many extras it can only be described as obscene. For starters, Dahl has included four endings -- each a little different and ultimately completely overwhelming. Add in three commentary tracks, one introduced by Dahl where he complains that commentary tracks are stupid, and one with Steve Zahn making hilarious wisecracks for half the film, only to give way to Sobieski in time to complain about her nipples poking through her shirt and the size of her butt. Priceless. Formerly known as Squelch.
Not much fun at all.