Plot: Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker) has plans to fly back home on break, but soon enough, his plans will take some serious changes. His friend Venna (Leelee Sobieski) has just broken up with her beau and since Lewis likes her, he wants to make his presence felt. So he decides to cash in his plane tickets and buy a low end used car, which he will then drive to pick up Venna and be able to spend some time with her. Before his trek has advanced much however, he is informed that his brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) has been arrested again. So Lewis takes a detour to Salt Lake City and bails Fuller out & in the process, gets himself a new passenger. As a token of thanks, Fuller has a CB installed in the car and that means a window of fun is open, as Fuller starts to jaw with some of the truckers. Lewis even pretends to be a woman and raises the attentions of one trucker, so much so that it comes back into their memories later on. After an incident with a rude hotel guest, the two chat again with the trucker and tell him to meet his woman at the motel, in the room of the man that troubled Fuller. This all seems like a harmless prank, but when strange & violent noises are heard in the room, it seems like someone took the prank quite seriously…
Entertainment Value: This road rage thriller still holds up as a solid horror watch and even spawned some sequels, so while Joy Ride might not rank with the genre classics, it is a capable effort. The narrative isn’t that creative and spins a yarn we’ve seen before, but the movie keeps a nice flow of tension and twists, so it never feels like a retread and keeps you reeled in. I also think the movie has a nice, brisk pace and once Lewis picks up Fuller, the narrative feels tight and focused. Up to that point, things aren’t as kinetic, but once the main pieces are lined up, Joy Ride wastes little time and turns into a lean, effective thriller. The unseen, but all too real threat of Rusty Nail makes him one of the more interesting horror villains, as he could be anywhere and the movie is smart about how his menace manifests. This lends a paranoia laced vibe to Joy Ride, a little more psychological in nature, even if the movie still leans on the usual horror tropes, such as jump scares and sharp music cues. The cast is fine, with Paul Walker stumbling over his lines, while Steve Zahn is a solid comic relief and of course, Leelee Sobieski brings a sincere performance to the table. I think Joy Ride gets a lot right and holds up better than a lot of horror movies from this era, so for fans of road trip/road rage style horror, this one is well worth a spin.
The lone instance of nakedness is when Rusty Nail insists the boys walk through a diner in the buff, so we see some bare man ass. Otherwise, no real sexual content outside of the mild talk over the radio. So if you hoped this was a lot lizard epic packed with sleaze, that is sadly not the case here. There’s a lot of tense moments in Joy Ride, but not much actual, kinetic violence on showcase. We see the nasty aftermath of Rusty Nail’s jaw ripping on one man and Fuller suffers a leg impalement, but that’s about all the direct bloodshed we’re shown. Some other minor instances pop up, such as truck crashes and some mild physical abuse, but this one isn’t heavy on the gore. The dialogue has some bright spots, with the radio chatter, Fuller’s odd sense of humor, and Ted Levine’s creepiness as the voice of Rusty Nail. Not much as far as quotable or overly memorable lines, but some solid moments. Not much craziness to be had, as Joy Ride sticks to a fairly typical horror approach and never spirals off the deep end.
Overall Insanity: 0/10
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