Joy Ride Review
Jim Halsey: My mother told me never to do this. - The Hitcher
David Mann: c'mon you miserable fat head, get that fat ass truck out of my way! - Duel
Jeff Taylor: YOU BETTER PRAY SHE'S ALIVE!!! - Breakdown
Rusty Nail: Now they know what it feels like to be the brunt of the joke. - Joy Ride
Lewis (Paul Walker) is an easygoing California college student on his way back to New Jersey during a school break. He volunteers to pick up his best friend Venna (LeeLee Sobieski) from her college in Colorado after learning she and her boyfriend have just broken up. Cashing in his plane ticket, he buys a used car and sets out to spend some quality time with the girl of his dreams. Along the way, he discovers his older brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) has been arrested, and makes a 200-mile detour to Utah to bail him out. Fuller, feeling grateful, buys a CB radio and decides it would be great fun to chat with the passing truck drivers. At first the CB banter is silly and harmless, but Fuller, hoping to liven things up, convinces a hesitant Lewis to pretend to be sexy-voiced Candy Cane. Enter Rusty Nail: A lonely trucker with a sweet tooth - he wants Candy. Out of curiosity and as a cruel practical joke, Fuller persuades Lewis (as Candy Cane) to arrange a meeting with Rusty Nail at their Motel. The meeting takes place, but not the way Rusty envisioned it - things go horribly awry and he becomes a trucker out for revenge. The film kicks into high gear, the brothers become the hunted, and so begins the road trip from hell.
Director John Dahl (Red Rock West, Rounders, The Last Seduction) collaborated with the writing team of J.J. Abrams and Clay Tarver to make Joy Ride. Tarver and Abrams, heavily influenced by the films Duel, and Breakdown, and determined not to make another Who Cares What You Did Last Summer-like film, enlisted the skill of Dahl (a huge fan of The Hitcher), the fine cast of Zahn, Walker and Sobieski, and made great use of America's isolated highways. The perfect voice casting of Rusty Nail was paramount to the film. Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs) was the hands-down winner. As in Session 9 his voice was used as a cast member. Credit is due Jeffrey Jur (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) for his innovative, and stylised cinematography and Marco Beltrami for his wonderful score. Zahn provides the perfect mix of comic relief, cool older brother, and genuinely frightened guy who realises too late he messed with the wrong trucker. Walker (Fast and the Furious), normally a bit wooden, adds just the right touch of self-effacement and charm, although Sobieski (Joan of Arc), a talented actress with a few good films under her belt, is not really given much to do.
Dahl raises the bar on suspense, and doesn't let up. There is a superbly-lit chase scene in a corn field that is nerve wracking, and the Motel showdown will have you on the edge of your seat. You never truly feel sorry for Lewis and Fuller, because they brought it on themselves. Dahl's use of humour is never gratuitous, and he masterfully weaves a frightening tale of a practical joke gone terribly wrong. There are plot holes aplenty, and you will find yourself wondering how Rusty can anticipate their every last move, but if you are able to temporarily suspend your disbelief you will be rewarded with a chilling little road film that succeeds more often than it fails. Walker's nude bottom is also a plus!
The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the transfer (taken from a nearly pristine print) is absolutely gorgeous. There are no compression artifacts, and only a slight bit of edge enhancement. I detected minimal fading and softness. The colours are predominately deep browns and dark greens and blend well with the blacks.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is brilliant with great use of the surround speakers to heighten the suspense during the many chase scenes and atmospheric highway noises. The split surrounds were utilised quite nicely, and the channel separation was excellent. The dialogue is clear, and natural and Marco Beltrami's music score sounds absolutely stunning. English and Spanish subtitles are included along with English and French 2.0 Surround Sound options.
This Special Edition DVD is packed with many extras. The disc comes in an attractive amaray case.
Deleted scene/Four Alternative Endings - A deleted scene that was actually an extended version of an existing scene is included. An optional audio commentary with Sobieski is provided.
The Alternate Endings:
None of the alternate endings had the same impact as the theatrical one ultimately used.
Original Ending - Not really an alternate ending, but a fascinating 29-minute alternate third act. Noteworthy only for the extended onscreen time of Walker's naked bottom!
First Re-shoot Ending - A combination of the theatrical ending that was actually used, and parts of Venna Saves the Day.
Alt Ending: Venna Saves the Day - The title gives it away. An unsatisfying ending.
Storyboard Alternate Ending - In order to illustrate a fourth alternate ending that was ultimately never filmed, the use of storyboards and live action clips from the First Re-shoot Ending (see above) were combined. I found it clever and funny.
All of the alternate endings include two optional audio commentaries by Dahl, or Abrams and Tarver. An Easter egg is included in the Deleted Scene/Alternate Endings section.
Chapter Stops and Menus - There are 30 animated chapter stops. The menus are interesting: They consist of animated scenes from the film, and are accompanied by a creepy music score that includes a thunderstorm sound effect and distorted voices. What makes the menus different is a television antenna interference-like visual effect that sweeps vertically down the screen at intermittent intervals. It is a bit disconcerting at first, but suits the stormy, foreboding ambience.
Commentaries/Multi Audio - Three audio commentaries are included. The audio commentary with director John Dahl is technically interesting, but lackluster. He himself admits in his opening dialogue, that commentaries are "drivel", yet he provides a fair amount of anecdotal behind-the-scenes info. The audio commentary with writers Clay Tarver and J.J. Abrams is a lot more interesting, as they were together for the commentary and seem relaxed talking about the whys and hows of making a non-horror thriller. They share many amusing anecdotes pointing out the various mistakes made during production and are charmingly self-deprecating. The audio commentary with actors Steve Zahn and LeeLee Sobieski was recorded separately, and is fairly entertaining. The first portion of the track is done by the always-amusing, albeit hyper Zahn, joking his way through the first 48 minutes alone. Sobieski in contrast is serious, articulate, and speaks in an odd, hurried fashion. Her portion of the commentary coincides with the introduction of her character's first onscreen appearance in the film.
More Than One Rusty Nail: Voice Auditions for Rusty Nail - A fun and interesting extra, you are given the ability to select one of three voices (Ted Levine, Eric Roberts and Stephen Shellen) from their voice auditions to play over a finished scene from the film. There is no doubt Ted Levine was the only choice, but Roberts (Julia's brother) and Shellen (who runs a close second), provide an interesting contrast with their unique takes on Rusty Nail.
More Than One Joy Ride - Rusty Nail Icons pop up at different points in the film, and when clicked, allow the deleted scene and alternate endings to be viewed. The audio and visual quality are not on a par with the actual film and render this extra somewhat of a disappointment. These are the same alternate endings and deleted scene found in their own section of the extras.
Making of-Featurette - Your standard making of featurette, gives behind-the-scenes technical info, interviews with cast and crew, and assorted scenes from the film.
Theatrical Trailer - A 1.85:1 nonanamorphic trailer is included that is surprisingly good, although it suffers from "more info than we should be shown in a trailer"-itis.
Joy Ride will inevitably be compared to Speilberg's 1971 masterpiece Duel. The premise: Lone trucker turned psychopath, stalks innocent motorists for imagined slights - except Lewis and Fuller are not that innocent, the slights weren't imagined and it lacks Duel's plausibility. Joy Ride is an entertaining suspense-filled 96 minutes, with loads of twists and turns, a likeable cast (most notably Zahn), and the chilling presence of Rusty Nail. If you can overlook some gaping plot holes and accept the unexplainable, Joy Ride succeeds as a smart, slick little popcorn thriller given very special treatment on an extras-rich Special Edition DVD.