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Overall Rating

Awesome: 19.61%
Worth A Look52.94%
Average: 17.65%
Pretty Bad: 6.86%
Total Crap: 2.94%

7 reviews, 60 user ratings

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Joy Ride
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by Erik Childress

"Zahn & Dahl Deliver One Thrillingly Joyous 'Ride'"
4 stars

Giving credit where credit is due is a major part of any kind of criticism. Even in the worst of films, whether it be the cinematography or just a few laughs, something has to justify the star rating next to the title. When an action film or thriller (so rarely these days) works, it becomes commonplace to commend a clever script or reap praise on the director for tightening the screws just the right way. Rarely can we single out one actor for much of the film’s success. This by no means goes to diminish the work of director John Dahl, whose “Joy Ride” is easily one of the year’s most entertaining escapist trips you’ll have at the movies all year. But if ever an Oscar category was created for casting, this year’s award should be delivered to whoever is responsible for hiring Steve Zahn.

Start with the film “Duel”, cross it with “Breakdown” and add a dash of “The Hitcher”. That’s the best way to describe “Joy Ride” and frankly, with an explanation like that, do you need any more? Just in case you do, it’s the story of Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker), a California college student who decides to buy a used car and travel to Colorado to pick up and console Venna (Leelee Sobieski), who’s on the final straw of a bad relationship. With all hopes pinned on making Venna “more than just a friend”, Lewis makes a side trip to bail his brother Fuller (Zahn) out of jail.

Now along for the ride, Fuller has a truckstop mechanic install a CB radio into their car, for truly no other reason than a goof. Getting their money’s worth, Fuller and Lewis start their own highway communicado with other handles. When the gravelly voice of “Rusty Nail” starts broadcasting his manifesto of thoughts, Fuller encourages Lewis to entice this fellow traveler with the teasing of feminine wonders. Their adventure brings them to a roadside motel where they up the prank ante to a 2-for-1 special, to teach a lesson to a rude, racist customer while involving the Rusty Nail. Of course, this is the beginning of their nightmare.

If you’ve seen any of the trailers or understood the Breakdown Duel with The Hitcher references, then you already know that Rusty Nail has his own lesson plan to teach to these boys and intends to stalk them (or even worse) through the rest of the movie. This stretch of road obviously isn’t unchartered territory, as just a few weeks back, Jeepers Creepers took the same route with a winged monstrosity in tow of a brother and sister. And as much as I enjoyed that film as a reliable little horror diddy, my stomach muscles weren’t nearly as wound up as they were with Joy Ride and did I mention this film has Steve Zahn?

Zahn has been a reliable character actor for years, mostly in comedies (Saving Silverman, Happy Texas) or as the comic relief on the outskirts of dramatic tension (Out of Sight, Suburbia). In Joy Ride, Zahn gets to do it all, showing off some impressive dramatic chops to sell the tension and perfectly delivering a zinger just when we need an exhale. (His realization after a gas station encounter is priceless.) As ridiculous as the film’s situation can be considered, Zahn’s perfectly nuanced facial ticks reflects both sides of the issue, bringing to the surface how perhaps you and your best friend may react if caught (God forbid) in the same predicament. This is Zahn’s best work since his scene stealing turn as The Wonders’ guitarist, Lenny, in That Thing You Do.

While Zahn delights us on camera, John Dahl is working some magic behind it. At only 96 minutes, the film is paced rather quickly, yet Dahl manages to string out many sequences that seem to play out in slow motion without going John Woo on us. Witness (and I truly mean witness) the way Dahl almost turns down all the volume in the hotel room as Fuller and Lewis try to eavesdrop on the very situation they’ve created in the next room. To say you could hear a pin drop isn’t as much a testament to this scene as to how far you would probably jump if you did hear that pin drop. Moments at that aforementioned gas station, a motel escape and the extended climax also warrant equal shivers and continued organ knotting.

Questioning the validity of Rusty Nail’s increased knowledge of his prey’s whereabouts and lives will certainly take the unhooked out of the movie. But well-structured nightmares don’t stop for one to make inquiries, they just make you wake up in a feverish sweat. The tension reaches such an unfathomable point that it would seem impossible to sustain for another 45 minutes. I suppose that’s why the film takes such an ill-advised U-turn when the guys finally get to Venna with Fuller taking quite a shine to her. This sub-issue to create tension between the brothers never really goes anywhere and is too unbelievable even in a thriller like this. (Does Paul Walker really have to worry about suitor competition?) Although again, this intersection is worth its wait and goal for Zahn’s payoff at a nearby bar.

Joy Ride certainly isn’t going to win any Oscars this year, but why should it even care? In a year populated with mediocre-to-rancid action thrillers (Swordfish, Ghosts of Mars, Don’t Say a Word), Joy Ride is too overly skillful to even be mentioned in the same breath. True edge of your seat enjoyment doesn’t come around too often and whether you go to the good examples of the bad ones, Hollywood will always have a slot on their schedule for them. Do yourself a favor though and support the good ones like Joy Ride though, because at least the participants involved will get the chance to do it again. Joy Ride is exciting, terrifying and funny. Is it as good as “Duel”, “Breakdown” or “The Hitcher”? Let me just say that I would not be ashamed to mention it in the same list. (Note: Credited co-writer J.J. Abrams is also the creator of television’s exciting new series “Alias” on ABC.)

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originally posted: 09/29/01 12:26:46
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User Comments

12/18/10 chaotik tom Absolutly brilliant! Loved every minute! A must see! 5 stars
4/12/09 Dane Youssef Finally! A worthwhile teen thriller! If "Duel" or "Jeepers Creepers" had actually worked! 5 stars
2/02/09 Pankaj Saksena It was a regular American Highway Thriller... but the ending was real confusing 3 stars
8/30/08 Shaun Wallner This movie was Awesome!! Loved It. 5 stars
10/19/07 Total Crap Brutal. The ending was confusing and there should've been a sequel by now. 4 stars
3/28/07 Stanley Thai A suspensful thriller that doesn't insult your intelligence. 4 stars
1/28/07 David Pollastrini great action with a few comedy bits 4 stars
7/13/06 Agent Sands No Last Seduction or Kill Me Again, but it passes. 4 stars
3/11/06 Dillon Suspense thriller with all the fun of a road movie 4 stars
6/18/05 Indrid Cold A surprisingly good thriller. This will become one of those forgotten gems. 4 stars
6/21/04 Dick Logan one of the worst films ever made!! Script and acting were pitiful!! 1 stars
6/14/04 Dr. Lecter A nerve-racking little gem of a thriller 4 stars
6/02/04 R.W. Welch Mad trucker flick strains credulity but is still fun. Neatly directed. 4 stars
3/20/04 mans0n really entertaining throughout 4 stars
12/12/03 Jaron more awesome than scary... 4 stars
12/07/03 Micheal One of the greatest thrillers i've probably ever saw! 5 stars
11/04/03 American Slasher Goddess One of the best on the road thrillers in a long time. 4 stars
10/01/03 Samuel Justus A decent little horror film! 4 stars
9/18/03 HUGH not scary not anything 1 stars
9/16/03 Charles Tatum Well done, I could watch Sobieski's Leelees all day long 4 stars
9/14/03 J An addrelidine rush! 4 stars
8/12/03 adrian true funny, scary, likable characters 5 stars
6/20/03 Jenny Tullwartz Unspeakable horror, roadtrip cliches, lame acting, dumb teens - this flick has it all! 3 stars
5/28/03 Scott Howard I Loved it !!! 5 stars
4/25/03 mr. Pink One of the best entertainig and exciting edge-of-your-seat thrillers of the last 5 years 5 stars
3/11/03 me GREAT 5 stars
3/09/03 Jack Sommersby A high-voltage, unnerving thriller. Dahl's command of the medium is admirable. 4 stars
1/23/03 Lisa Blundell A very scary, hide-your-face-behind-a-pillow movie. Very humorous too!! 5 stars
10/08/02 rita WHAT HAPPENED IN THE END?????!!!?? I DONT GET IT 4 stars
10/06/02 John McNew A more effective chiller than 2001 summer's "The Others" 4 stars
9/08/02 gary roberts I really didnt get the end... what happened? anyone care to explain? thanks 4 stars
8/02/02 Matthew Smith gripping from start to finish, a seat gliching thriller 4 stars
7/25/02 palaboy101 Reminded me of "Jeepers Creepers". You must see it on DVD... 4 alternate endings! 4 stars
4/19/02 OH BILLY!!!!!!!!!!!! its awsome 5 stars
3/31/02 Film Guy Great Movie. not like other horror movies 5 stars
3/23/02 Andrew Carden Cheap Thrills, Average Performances, Over-Done Ending...Pretty Average Film. 3 stars
3/23/02 The Bomb 69 most thriller films have stupid characters, this one was real and the ending was awesome!! 5 stars
3/20/02 Spyguy2 Makes "The Hitcher" look like Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai"...avoid at all costs. Trust me. 1 stars
3/15/02 NWO4LIFE Entertaining and thrilling, but it played it a little too safe. One of them should've died. 4 stars
3/05/02 Jenny Tullwartz Unspeakable horror, roadtrip cliches, lame acting, dumb teens - this flick has it all! 3 stars
12/25/01 ryan starts out good but quickly turns into crap 2 stars
12/15/01 Flora( I love this movie!Steve and Paul are very sexy!:)) 5 stars
12/03/01 natasha very good worth the time 5 stars
11/29/01 Kelly i'm buyin the video just for that beautiful scene of Paul Walkers ASS! 5 stars
11/21/01 daniboy very enjoyable. scary enough. steve zahn is funny as hell 5 stars
11/02/01 Gay Tooth Fairy lots of fun. Ted Levine has a great villain voice. 4 stars
11/02/01 pipeman Great fun. It deserved to do better at the box office. Look for this movie and see it. 5 stars
10/21/01 Greyjack Very good flick.Steve Zahn kicked ass again. The guy's got two solid movies out this month. 4 stars
10/18/01 Sarah Regelin Awesome movie, it was soo scary Paul Walker is so good looking 5 stars
10/15/01 Schmidty72 100 times better than Jeepers Creepers. If you like "Duel", then you'll like this flick. 4 stars
10/15/01 Geebo A fun movie, very entertaining. 5 stars
10/14/01 specialK good stuff - have to suspend reality for some scenes 4 stars
10/13/01 Black Sheep Eric Snider said it exactly. Unusually level-headed, w/laughs and scares. & Paul Walker =^) 5 stars
10/12/01 Connor Dueck suspensful as hell. if only all new thrillers could be this good 4 stars
10/10/01 GIBBO A great romp - more funny than suspenseful - but a great movie all the same. 4 stars
10/07/01 Chuck and Fran All the characters reactions in the movie were believable. Comparable to "Duel" by Spielber 4 stars
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  05-Oct-2001 (R)



Directed by
  John Dahl

Written by
  Clay Tarver
  Jeffrey Abrams

  Leelee Sobieski
  Steve Zahn
  Matthew Kimbrough
  Brien Varady
  Paul Walker
  Jim Beaver

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