Usually a truly suspenseful film about a maniacal, big rig driver and his truck comes along once in a lifetime. A movie that keeps its viewers on the edges of their seats with hearts pumping and heads in their hands, afraid to watch but more afraid to look away. A movie about a man consisting of mere flesh and blood fighting for his life against the enigma seated behind the wheel of a massive Mack truck. The movie that comes to mind is one of Stephen Spielberg’s first notable directorial efforts called “Duel” which can be seen fairly regularly on the Superstation. “Joyride” on the other hand is an average movie that delivers enough suspense to be interesting, but falls short with its lame dialogue.
Luis (Paul Walker) is a college freshman who is so hot for his old high school friend Venna (Leelee Sobieski) that he is willing to cash in his plane ticket and buy a car to give her a ride home for break. Plans are underway when Luis learns that his irresponsible older brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) is in the slammer in Utah. Luis, being the good son, decides to drive out of his way to bail out said black sheep before meeting up with Venna. So begins the joyride this film is named after.
The story follows Luis, Fuller and Venna as they pay the price for playing a cruel joke on a lonely and very unstable trucker with the CB handle Rusty Nail. The film consists of a series of “I Know What You Did Last Summer”-esque scenes in which the three protagonists narrowly escape with their lives. This movie is not without exciting action sequences, and manages to get a few laughs thanks to the always consistent comic timing of Zahn. Walker is very attractive (which helps when he delivers his lines in his trademark wooden way). One of the most positive and refreshing things about the movie is that the burden of gratuitous nudity is placed on the shoulders and firm buttocks of male actors instead of Hollywood’s usual flaunting of female breasts that plague many other films.When asked why she chose this film, Sobieski said, “I thought it was a nicely chiseled script” and that she “really just wanted to play a ‘chick’.” Possibly by “chick” she meant that she wanted to play a flat character that contributed very little to the whole of the film. Sobieski, who worked with Stanley Kubrick on his final film “Eyes Wide Shut,” generally makes good film choices with strong characters, but seems to have fallen a bit short with “Joyride”. To see her in a great but underrated film, rent “A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries” which represents some of her best work.
Director John Dahl (“Rounders”) said that “movies like ‘Duel’ were definitely on my mind” when making this film. He succeeded in creating a suspenseful environment in which to tell this story.
Dahl also scored with the action sequences involving the truck which became a character in and of itself. “We wanted the truck to really take on a personality of its own,” Dahl said. The voice on the CB belongs to actor Ted Levine, who played Buffalo Bill in “The Silence of the Lambs.” Levine was the perfect choice for this part because he helped give Rusty Nail the appropriate amount of creepiness.
The film has some laughs and a few edge-of-the-seat moments, but it isn’t as impressive as the one and only “Duel.”