It's best to get things out in the open as early as possible: the movie that Joy Ride wants to be was made 30 years ago. Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1971, featured an everyday man pursued by a malevolent, faceless trucker behind the wheel of a big-rig so covered in grime that you could barely make out the word flammable written on its side. The movie was elegant, existential, and chilling. Duel's simplicity made it gripping and demonstrated the talent of an up-and-coming director.
Joy Ride mixes a threesome into the plot. There's straightlaced student Lewis (Paul Walker); his mischievously charismatic and criminal brother Fuller (Steven Zahn); and Lewis's college crush, Venna (Leelee Sobieski). The brothers prank-call a gullible trucker with horrible results. Soon after picking up Venna on their cross-country journey they realize that they've crossed the wrong man. Zahn revels in his role—the only standout performance in the film.
Director John Dahl sports a few classy expositional moments in his trademark noir mood. Joy Ride maneuvers between B-movie camp and Spielberg's classic.
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