There are some startling moments in the new thriller from
20th Century-Fox called JOY RIDE but, like many recent entries into
the genre, if one reflects on the plot, one finds more holes than in a
moth-eaten sweater. It's not that JOY RIDE doesn't do its work while
unspooling: there are the requisite thrills, followed by the slightly boring
expository sequences designed to lull the audience into tranquility before
unleashing utter mayhem. Almost all of the points on a checklist
have been met as well: unwitting hero(es); unseen, menacing villain;
damsel in distress; etc. The script credited to Clay Tarver and J.J. Abrams
serves as a perfect outline for director John Dahl to use, it's just that
a lot of the ideas have been done before and in more thrilling ways.
JOY RIDE concerns the cross-country driving trip of blond stud
muffin Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker who clearly didn't get enough of
cars in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and continues to mimic Keanu
Reeves in his performing style). When he learns that his dream girl
Venna (Leelee Sobieski, who projects so much intelligence one has
to wonder if she bothered to read the script before committing to
the project) has no way of getting back to their home in New Jersey,
he cashes in an airline ticket (not such a bad idea given recent historical
events) and buys a secondhand car. Along the way, he makes a detour
to Salt Lake City to bail out his ne'er-do-well older brother Fuller (Steve
Zahn, who manages to enliven whatever film he's in). As payback, Fuller
has a CB radio installed in Lewis' car. (Those of us who were old enough
to recall the CB craze of the mid-1970s may miss the logic in this, but
Fuller explains that it's like a primitive form of the Internet.) Deciding
to engage in a little harmless mischief, Fuller goads his brother into
adopting a woman's voice with the handle "Candy Cane" who soon
catches the attention of a truck driver who goes by "Rusty Nail".
(The studio has not identified the actor providing the voice.) They
tease "Rusty Nail" a bit and then lose contact with him. When the
brothers decide to check into a motel, another rude guest rubs Fuller
the wrong way and as payback has "Candy" set up a date with the
occupant of the motel room. When that man is found near death the
next day, the plot really starts to kick in.
"Rusty Nail" obviously didn't enjoy the prank and begins a
campaign of seeking revenge that occupies the remainder of the film.
Having a truck driver as a villain was handled very effectively by
Steven Spielberg in the 1971 TV movie DUEL to which JOY RIDE
owes more than a passing debt. As anyone who has ever driven (or
even ridden as a passenger) on a highway knows, a tractor trailer
can indeed inspire fear and unease. Had the film concentrated on
that aspect, there might have been an intriguing drama, although
it is doubtful that anything new could have been added to the genre.
By having the villain in the film suddenly become omniscient, however,
all logic is dispersed and the movie devolves into standard fare
beneath the talents of all involved. Instead of a real JOY RIDE,
the film becomes a run-of-the-mill movie with a forced third act
that doesn't quite add up.
MPAA Rating: R for violence/terror and language
Running time: 97 mins.
|© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.