“Joy Ride” is directed by John Dahl and co-written and co-produced by J.J. Abrams. The film stars Paul Walker, Steve Zahn & Leelee Sobieski. Ted Levine is credited for use of his voice throughout the movie. Walker and Levine were coming the success of “The Fast & The Furious” which was the first film in that franchise. This also marked Walker first turn in outside of his teenage comedy comfort zone, having only done the “Fast” film but appear in “Varsity Blues”, “She’s All That” & “The Skulls” in which he played the high school jock character.
After being persuaded by his childhood crush, Venna (Sobieski) to embark on a road trip from California to their home in New Jersey, Lewis Thomas (Walker) returns his plane ticket and buys a used car to begin his journey. Along the way, he learns of his older brother, Fuller (Zahn), being released from jail in Salt Lake City. Fuller join Lewis for their drive to Denver, Colorado for Venna. The brothers make one stop at gas station and purchase a CB radio. They soon begin a prank on one particular driver, who’s only known by the handle “Rusty Nails” (voiced by Levine). The prank was becoming more elaborate as the guys pull in for the night but then a turn for the worse occurs when their neighbor at the hotel they’re staying at is found dead. After a stern warning from the local authorities, the guys are given a pass but trouble rises soon after as Rusty Nails reappears and begins a relentless pursuit of the brothers. A high octane game of cat and mouse ensues and the brothers along with Venna must outrun this deranged trucker before they become roadkill.
Back in 2001, movies were beginning to shift to more visually appealing than just a basic thriller with practical effects. 1999’s “The Matrix” was the visually stunning Sci-Fi epic while movies like “The Fast & The Furious” began the high powered action movies and then came the superhero genre with 1998’s “Blade”, 2000’s “X-Men” & 2002’s “Spider Man. Joy Ride kind of flew under the radar and went nowhere but for myself and the very few people who saw it, this was a diamond in the rough. This was an intense raid thriller from beginning to end. It has somewhat of formulaic storyline but a great execution. The acting is solid. Seeing Walker and Zahn in a thriller very early in their careers was surprising yet entertaining.
While the film isn’t perfect, it is still a damn good thriller. Paul Walker went on in to do other films such as 2003’s “Timeline”, 2005’s “Into the Blue” & 2010’s “Takers” as well 6 of the 9 “Fast & Furious”. Unfortunately, Walker was killed in car accident in 2013 in car accident. Steve Zahn went on to do other comedic films like 2001’s “Saving Silverman” alongside Jason Biggs and Jack Black, 2003’s “Daddy Day Care” with Eddie Murphy & “National Security” with Martin Lawrence. He has also ventured out into more serious roles like 2006’s “Rescue Dawn”, 2013’s “Dallas Buyers Club” & 2015’s “War for The Planet of the Apes” as well as the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” trilogy. “Joy Ride” might not have been great at its release but it is definitely worth revisiting and enjoyable now.