Rob’s Car Movie Review: Joy Ride (2001)

Paul Walker was a car guy in the truest sense of the words. Much like his acting predecessors – Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and James Garner – Walker was known to spend much of his private time purchasing, driving, and wrenching on a variety of high-performance vehicles.

Of course, Walker’s on-screen legacy will forever be associated with his starring turn as Brian O’Connor in no less than six of the blockbuster Fast and the Furious franchise films (one posthumously using CGI). Nonetheless, he appeared in another, little-known automotive-themed movie in 2001. I thought we’d take a look at it, so without further ado, here is this month’s installment of Rob’s Car Movie Review, Joy Ride.

Production:

Joy Ride theatrical movie poster (Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment.)

Joy Ride was a co-production of New Regency Pictures, Epsilon Motion Pictures, Bad Robot, and LivePlanet. The film was distributed in all US territories by Twentieth Century Fox. The movie had a rather illustrious above-the-line team which included producer Arnon Milchan, producer and co-writer J.J. Abrams, and director John Dahl. Dahl had recently helmed the Matt Damon and Edward Norton hit, Rounders.

Paul Walker stars as the blue-eyed good guy of the movie, Lewis Thomas. (Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment.)

In addition to Paul Walker, the film also starred Steve Zahn, Leelee Sobieski, and featured the voice of Silence of the Lambs bad-guy, Ted Levine.

Steve Zahn largely steals the movie as Fuller, Lewis’ misguided older brother. (Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment.)

The Storyline & Cinematography:

The movie tells the story of college student, Lewis Thomas (Walker), who embarks on a cross-country road trip to pick up a girl, Venna (Sobieski), who he has long had a crush on. His intention is to drive her home to Texas for spring break.

On the way, Lewis learns that his black sheep brother, Fuller (Zahn), has been arrested for the umpteenth time. Lewis takes a brief detour to bail Fuller out, and together, the two of them travel to pick up Venna.

Leelee Sobieski as Venna, the object of Lewis’ affection. (Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment.)

Along the way, Fuller plays a practical joke using a CB radio, on a lonely trucker known as Rusty Nail (the voice of Ted Levine). The three young folks soon regret the prank, as Rusty Nail turns out to be a vengeful psychopath, intent on making them pay for their cruelty.

The film generates a good amount of suspense as the unseen villain increases the intensity of his bad deeds. (Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment.)

Joy Ride is a modern spin on the “killer on the road” horror/suspense genre film. Similar to notable movies from the past, such as The Hitcher, Duel, and The Car. It delivers a fine amount of suspense throughout the story, as the villain remains unseen while he ratchets up his evil deeds designed to terrify the protagonists.

The acting in the film is largely very good, with Walker turning in a solid blue-eyed good guy performance, and Zahn stealing the show as the misguided and rascally older brother. Only Sobieski phones it in, with her performance coming off as rather stilted and wooden. She does have a certain charm and screen-presence though, with her offbeat good looks.

The movie’s cinematography is especially effective, depicting the American West as a sparsely populated wasteland of cheap motels and truck stops. (Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment.)

The cinematography by Jeffry Jur, is slick and effective. He creates mood by lensing fantastic roadside locations throughout the West as lonely, decaying milieus. Equally effective is the film editing, which doesn’t fall prey to the “cut-a-second” trend of films of this type in recent decades.

The Cars:

Lewis purchases his road trip car, a 1971 Chrysler Newport at the beginning of the film. (Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment.)

Thankfully for us car nuts, there is also a trio of cool cars here to keep us ogling. At the very beginning of the movie, Lewis purchases his ride for the road trip at a used car lot. His pick should warm the cockles of any Mopar fan’s heart: a battleship-sized 1971 Chrysler Newport coupe.

The Newport’s prodigious dimensions and Fusealage Styling on display in this production still of Paul Walker performing a driving stunt in the film. (Photo courtesy of vonskip.com.)

Featuring the “Fuselage Styling” that typified all of the Mopar full-sized cars of the period, the Newport was long, wide and sleek. In Y3 Antique Ivory, the car in the film looks like the quintessential road trip car for a young twenty-something.

A perfect road trip car. (Phot courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment.)

Most of the car’s exhaust notes in the film seem to be sweetened or entirely dubbed, making it tough to identify its engine. Although, it is no doubt a big-block V8. By Chrysler Newport equipment of the time, it suggests the movie car either packed a 383 or 440.

For those enamored with modern European muscle, a brief appearance of a silver 2000 BMW M-Roadster will make you happy. Especially in a shot from the rear as the car drives away, displaying its almost ludicrously wide, stock rear rubber.

The brothers steal a perfectly beat and weathered 1975 F250. (Photo Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment.)

For you muscly-pickup enthusiasts, the brothers steal a very cool, Medium Green Gold 1975 Ford F250 pickup beater. I personally always loved the front end and grille-work on those particular trucks.

Other cars in the film include a 1972 Buick Electra 225, a great 1982 Chevy Camaro Z28, and a slew of Peterbuilt, Kenworth and Freightliner big-rigs.

Conclusion:

Joyride is an exceedingly watchable film. It’s packed with a good cast, top-notch mise-en-scene, and a trio of pretty cool cars and automotive action. It’s a great way for a car nut, Mopar fan, or enthusiast of suspense films to kill a couple of hours.

While not quite in the league of the original The Hitcher, my personal favorite of the genre, I nonetheless enjoyed it quite a bit. I recommend you see it too. I give Joyride seven out of ten pistons.

About the author

Rob Finkelman

Rob combined his two great passions of writing and cars; and began authoring columns for several Formula 1 racing websites and Street Muscle Magazine. He is an avid automotive enthusiast with a burgeoning collection of classic and muscle cars.
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