Motor run!

Sean McGrath

Joy Ride

Directed by John Dahl

(Paul Walker, Steve Zahn, Leelee Sobieski, Jessica Bowman)

Rated: R

 

Serenity is often found on the open road. A couple Hostess fruit pies and a full tank of gas is all one really needs to embrace America’s bounty. Using the desolation and strangeness of America’s cross country throng of highways, Joy Ride brings the thriller genre to the road.

Fuller (Steve Zaun) and Lewis (Paul Walker) have to get from Wyoming to New Jersey. There’s one snag, a psychopathic killer is chasing them and he’s as crazy as a barrelful of Ebola monkeys. Because e-mail or blood-inked letters are too slow, the fellas and the killer communicate via CB radio. After picking up Lewis’s love interest Venna (LeeLee Sobieski) in Colorado, the three embark on their “joy ride” hounded by our resident bad guy, “Rusty Nail.”

Director John Dahl is adept with the camera and quite a reputable name for a film of this nature. His Rounders and The Last Seduction were films that brought a stylistic darkness to well-acted stories.

At first glance, Joy Ride is saturated with all the makings of the teen-horror flick of recent. Yet Joy Ride is a good time, if you let it be. Attacking its plausibility (especially with the Lex Luthor-esce genius Rusty Nail displays) is cause for misery as the film will live or die with the audience’s ability to accept it unquestionably.

Ultimately, this movie owes its soul to Steve Zahn. This guy is a definite force to be reckoned with. Zahn simply outshines every other aspect in the film, bringing his unique and hilarious delivery to an otherwise flat script. If given only a Rubik’s cube and a turkey sandwich, Zahn could do something worth eight bucks. This guy stands out as one of the top five most likable and comical screen presences in Hollywood today.

Joy Ride shares a lot with Spielberg’s 1971 flick, Duel, adding the aspect of a constant stream of conversation between hunter and hunted. The idea of a killer having the liberties, and therefore the wicked maneuverability, is somewhat much more chilling than those who prey on big-breasted college girls from within a small community. Joy Ride is in one sense “a popcorn movie,” yet with much more distinguishable features that raise it to a higher playing field (thanks to Mr. John Dahl and your highness and mine, Mr. Steve Zahn).

-Sean McGrath