Joy Ride is a thriller in the vein of Duel, Breakdown, The Hitcher and The Vanishing; where on the wide deserted roads through the desert a road trip turns into a fight for life and death. In this case the person wrecking the havoc is a trucker who responded to a CB chat with Lewis (Paul Walker) pretending to be a girl. He and his brother thought it would be fun to set up a date with this trucker, who goes by the name of Rusty Nail, and have him go to the room next door of the motel they’re staying only for him to find out he’s put on a wild goose chase. But when the inhabitant of that room ends up in a coma with his jaw ripped off things turn out for the worst.
The only real surprising element of this otherwise by-the-numbers road-trip-thriller is the way the story is divided in to two parts. At first it seemed like Lewis and his brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) were the ones having to deal with Rusty Nail, but suddenly in the middle he apparently backs off which enables them to fulfill their trip to the girl they were going to; Venna (Leelee Sobieski). When he finds out about them having a girl on board his reign of terror starts again.
There are some things you must take for granted in thriller/horror movies, like how the slowly walking killer is able to keep up with a running victim, but at some point you just can’t ignore such elements as they’re so in your face. While presented as a simple trucker, Rusty is able to find out everything on these guys; names and relations, kidnaps several people and is able to follow them around unseen for days. This guy is a trucker; doesn’t he have some cargo to deliver?
Obligatory in this genre is that you don’t get the police involved, most of the time they are in a movie like this they don’t believe the protagonists anyway or are part of the bad guys. In this movie that’s different as the police are aware of a psychotic trucker being responsible for the scene at the motel, yet when Rusty Nail claims he’s going to kill Venna’s roommate if they call the police they simply go with it. If a guy is known for being a psycho and has tried to kill you earlier maybe listening to him without even having any weapons on you isn’t the wisest thing to do.
This movie had a higher budget than it should have, because in the end this is simple DTV-stuff. But because there is more money the movie looks quite good and there are some better than average actors attached to the movie. Paul Walker, Steve Zahn and Leelee Sobieski might not be A-listers or real thespians, they however do bring some extra credit to the table than the average nobody which is usually cast in this type of film. As a bonus there’s character actor Ted Levine, best known for his performance of Buffalo Bill in The Silence Of The Lambs, who is the voice of of Rusty Nail over the CB.
It’s a fun little movie, nothing great but then again it never aspires to be something great.