Is there anything so menacing as a trucker, those big-rig truck drivers who barrel down the highways, tail-gating poor families on their way to holiday or people commuting to work? Some might say yes, but when travelling down the road at a speed you already consider unsafe and to find the nose of a transport at your back end threatening to run you off the road, it is quite fear-inducing. So it is with Joyride from 2001 starring Paul Walker, Steve Zahn and Leelee Sobieski. It is a movie that will make you think twice about being rude to a trucker, not to mention make you wonder just who it is that is behind the wheel of that next transport behind you on the road.
The story itself concerns Walker who is going home for the summer when he ends up picking up his brother and love interest Venna played by Sobieski. The three are soon headed off on a road trip which is going just fine until they start playing with the CB in the car and unknowingly anger a man with the handle Rusty Nail. From there, the three companions are on the run, unknowingly at first and then quite knowingly as Rusty Nail starts to stalk them, harass them and try to kill them for toying with him.
Make no mistake about it, because while this film is definitely a thriller at heart, it is also a horror movie. Director John Dahl plays upon our fear of the unknown and the visceral experience of near-death more than once throughout the picture. It is also a horror that finds itself grounded more in reality than your average slasher or monster movie and thus, something everyone can connect with. When that voice comes over the CB or when you see the truck nearly killing our protagonists on multiple occasions, you feel that surge of adrenaline and fear course through you. At the same time, it is all coupled with excitement because you have to know that our heroes are going to live, or at least you hope that they will.
Walker is good and charismatic as the lead of the film, showing signs of the action hero he would become and the star of The Fast and Furious films, the first of which was released the same year as this very movie. Zahn too would put in a good performance and inflect some of his distinct comedy style which would lighten the mood, though not for very long. Sobieski would play a sort of femme fatale in this film, seeming to love each of the men, but committing to neither. It made the movie quite interesting to watch and had you wondering if she would end up with anyone come the end of the film, or leave them in a limbo state. You could argue that Rusty Nail was the real star of it all, the faceless killer who was unable to take a joke and decided to go to extremes to deal with his tormentors. The fact that he returned for two more installments in the franchise while the others did not would also tend to support that theory, but when all is said and done, he makes a great villain.
If you need a good popcorn flick, Joyride is that type of film, one you can put on and forget all your troubles, real escapist fare, packed full of action and thrills even if it is about a mentally unstable truck driver who kills for fun, not to mention it is nice to see these actors before they made it big in a film that they would most likely not agree to star in now.
4 out of 5