Take a Ride
young cast, viewers in smart, engaging thriller
Starring Steve Zahn, Paul Walker
20th Century Fox
By Geronimo Rodriguez
Daily Cougar Staff
How many directors can say their film was
snubbed at the Oscars for being released on cable instead of at the theaters?
Merie W. Wallace/20th Century
(Pictured from left to right)
Lewis (Paul Walker), Venna (Leelee Sobieski) and Fuller (Steve Zahn) flee
from a vicious trucker out for revenge.
John Dahl can, but don't be surprised
if he doesn't mention what happened when his film, The Last Seduction,
missed out on Tinseltown's
The subtle, mild-mannered director isn't
known for stealing the spotlight or smothering his films with a self-indulgent
Instead, Dahl is more known for his film
noir approach and ability to capture a world of open, dry land that serves
as the backdrop for most of
his suspenseful stories.
While Dahl's previous works have never
been even close to being considered teen flicks, he takes a chance in the
mainstream world and
comes up with an entertaining film in
Ironically, when watching Dahl's latest
movie, it's safe to say he never does anything to remind audiences of films
such as Scream and I
Know What You Did Last Summer.
Joy Ride's first impressions from the trailers
may have moviegoers thinking this film belongs in the teen/horror genre
that is known for being
more mindless than suspenseful.
But with good chemistry between the characters
and the presence of an excellent storyteller, Joy Ride barrels over those
plot holes in the first
few minutes of the film, only to take
audiences for an amusing, thrilling ride.
College freshman Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker)
plans to hit the open road with a platonic friend, Venna (Leelee Sobieski),
who just split from
Soon the wide-eyed Lewis sees things changing
between him and Venna, but he finds a fork in the road when he hears his
Fuller (Steve Zahn), was arrested for
drunk and disorderly conduct.
From here, all roads lead to trouble as
Lewis decides that three square meals a day aren't good enough for his
older brother and makes
Fuller isn't really that much of a pest
of an older brother to Lewis; he's just the kind of person who goes too
far to get a few laughs.
In this case, Fuller pushes Lewis to play
a joke on a trucker, who is handled "Rusty Nail," with their newly installed
Citizen's Band radio.
Apparently, "Rusty Nail" has deep problems
with being laughed at and seeks ultimate revenge by shifting the pranks
to another level, with the
two brothers being the butt of the jokes.
The story takes a chance and begins with
this premise that will have audiences wondering if they've just made a
mistake by paying for a film
that'll turn out to be a never-ending
chase between a mysterious, dark figure and a couple of teens.
But once the film gets up to speed, it's
clear Dahl did not intend to make audiences sit through another one of
Instead, Dahl skillfully delivers a film
with suspense and humor, illustrating how a quality director can improve
an average story line.
Just think of Dahl taking simple concepts
from a number of past films and deciding how to sharpen those ideas to
accommodate the film's
"It seems to me that people enjoy themselves
better when they're laughing and if you can balance that, it's just more
entertaining," Dahl said.
"When you're scared and laughing at the
same time, it just makes the experience a lot more intense."
Another good thing in Dahl's approach to
Joy Ride is how he avoids all the concepts similar films have worn out
and subsequently made
impossible to watch.
There won't be any ridiculous chase scenes
where the victims can clearly get away, but don't, only to be stabbed or
strangled without putting
up a fight.
And don't worry about "Rusty Nail" wearing
a mask similar to the hideous cherub-face in Valentine; we never see the
deranged trucker's face,
we only hear his rough voice from the
CB radio throughout the film.
As for the acting, Walker (The Fast and
the Furious) and Sobieski (The Glass House) fill their roles as Lewis and
Venna, respectively, with
enough effort to counter Dahl's storytelling.
But these two performances are clearly
overshadowed by Zahn's (Saving Silverman) entertaining character, whose
which establish the direction this film
Zahn, who has done his slurred-speaking,
dry-humor bit in a number of films (including the Steven Soderberg's hugely
underrated Out of
Sight), also offers a realistic sense
of chemistry between his character and other characters, a strong attribute
for any film.
"I just always try to make certain situations
different, unique," Zahn said.
According to Dahl, this would be an understatement.
Dahl, who met Zahn when he was casting for the part in Rounders that went
Norton, spoke highly of Zahn's talent
for combining the suspense and humor in the film.
"The thing is that Steve could remain sympathetic
throughout the turns in the story," Dahl said. "I think he's a gifted dramatic
actor but he's also
Ultimately, Joy Ride is an engaging story
that never intends to reinvent any genre; it's simply Dahl, an excellent
director, showing how a good
thriller is done.