Synopsis: Three young people on a road trip from Colorado to New Jersey talk to a trucker on their CB radio, then must escape when he turns out to be a psychotic killer.
The whole CB radio craze was brought into the mainstream thanks in part to C.W. McCall’s catchy one hit wonder Convoy and the 1977 comedy classic Smokey and the Bandit. In a world of smartphones, wireless internet and GPS society has reached the point where you learn to use some form of technology before elementary school. A 40 year old could show a CB Radio set to a millennial and unless their parents grew up watching Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed or Jackie Gleason they’d have no idea what the hell they are staring at. Six months ago I got a e-mail from my Dad with a photo attached and he wanted me to take a wild guess at what it was. I spent the better part of an hour racking my brain trying to figure out what it was and when I didn’t write him back he sent another e-mail asking if I was stumped. Undeterred I cheated a bit going on Google image search trying to find something similar with no success I then searched for an photo of a white flag and sent it back his way. Even now I can envision my father chuckling as he wrote his next reply – It’s a headlight dimmer switch. The brain will have no troubles remembering certain pieces of technology because they are forever ingrained in our lost childhoods then something as simple as a headlight dimmer switch comes a long and makes us look like damn fools.
As the opening credits of Joy Ride come into focus the main question taking form was – ‘This movie was made in 2001 why is Hollywood trying to revitalize something that was popular the last time bell bottoms were in?’ All of sudden I saw JJ Abrams name flash across the screen and like a bolt of lightning I immediately knew. The future Star Wars – The Force Awakens director wrote and produced Joy Ride as a tribute to his idol Steven Spielberg. In other words Abrams was going to present a modern remake of Spielberg’s seminal debut thriller Duel under a different moniker (thankfully) with a few new twists added in. Instead of focusing on a middle aged road raged salesman viewers get a college student offering to drive a friend, who he has romantic interests, back to their hometown in New Jersey for summer vacation. Along for the ride is the college student’s estranged brother who has been in a recent spot of trouble with the law. During the road trip reformed criminal brother tries to make amends by buying a CB radio to help stay alert of any potential speed traps. It doesn’t take long after that for the brothers to get bored and start messing with a trucker who goes by the handle of Rusty Nail. Old Rusty is creepily voiced (in an unaccredited performance) by Buffalo Bill himself Ted Levine. Every time his voice came across the CB I couldn’t help imagining Rusty Nail yell – ‘It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again!’ Despite the middle half dragging itself along Joy Ride is a tense little thriller thanks in part to the uneasiness of onscreen brothers Paul Walker and Steve Zahn. Outside of his work in the Fast & Furious franchise this is the best performance Walker delivered and after his untimely passing reading about what a generous person the guy was how can I knock him? It might not be as tension filled as 1970’s Steven Spielberg I still say give it a chance you’ll be white knuckling the arm rests of your chair in no time.
Final Grade: B