Don't mess with truckers when driving cross-country--you know never know if there's a screw loose somewhere.
College boy Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker) is getting ready to go back east for the summer. In a last-minute decision, he impulsively buys a used car and rushes to pick up his high school pal, Venna (Leelee Sobieski), in Colorado, so they can drive cross country together. How sweet. But before he gets to her, he takes a detour to see his brother, Fuller (Steve Zahn), who ends up coming along for the ride. Fuller, a wise-ass, starts making trouble the minute he gets in the car. First, he buys a CB radio and then cajoles Lewis into playing a prank on a trucker by pretending he's a lonely woman looking for love. Big mistake. The trucker, ''Rusty Nail,'' whom we never see, is actually a psychopath who doesn't take kindly to being tricked and starts terrorizing the boys, as well as Venna after she finally joins in on the fun. How will the gang ever manage to escape the clutches of a trucker gone mad?
After his movie The Fast and the Furious emerged as one of the only success stories this summer, Walker has become a hot commodity these days. He has an easygoing style and amazing good looks that allow him to fit in well as the hapless hero. However, he really doesn't have the acting chops to move beyond the role and therefore gives us no more than is required. Sobieski, on the other hand, has proven she can act, but her choices in movies lately have left much to be desired (i.e., the recent The Glass House). In Joy Ride, she is completely wasted, serving only as a catalyst to get the trucker to do some really nasty things--a part that could have been played by a thousand other less-talented actresses. Zahn's Fuller is the only performance worth noting here. He tends to bring to his characters a skewed perspective on reality, which continually makes him interesting to watch.
The film is a cross between The Hitcher (1986), in which Rutger Hauer plays a hitchhiker who terrorizes a motorist making a cross country trek, and Steven Spielberg's Duel, a made-for-TV movie starring Dennis Weaver as a man stalked by a faceless truck driver. However, Joy Ride is not nearly as good as the latter and only slightly better than the former. There are definitely some real moments of terror, especially in the beginning when it quickly became apparent what an awful mistake the boys had made. The movie keeps the suspense going early on by never knowing when the trucker would appear next-or what he might do. Yet, as the film progressed, the believability factor starts to seriously dissipate, and the action lapsed into some ridiculous scenarios, such as having the trucker lure the three to a corn field just so he wreak more havoc.
Two brothers who end up taking a road trip into hell--except hell's not nearly as scary as it could have been.