Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Steven Spielberg's first movie was called Duel. It was about a lorry that chased a car. You never saw the driver of the lorry. You saw fear on the face of the other guy. On one level, it was absurd - how could a diesel rig keep up with a speeding auto? On another level, it was scary-wary.

John (The Last Seduction) Dahl's latest, originally called Joy Ride - where's the joy in this? - is about a lorry that chases a car. On one level, it is taut, exciting and highly effective. On another level, it is absurd because the man in the truck - you don't see him, either - is much too smart.

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Lewis (Paul Walker) is driving across country to collect Venna (Leelee Sobieski), his not-yet-but-soon-maybe girlfriend, in California. He's a freshman. She's fresh. He hears that his older brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) is coming out of jail in Salt Lake City. It's sort of on the way and so he makes a detour and picks him up.

Big mistake. Lewis is white bread. Fuller is trouble. He buys a CB radio and fixes it into the car and then persuades Lewis to put on his girlie voice and have fun with a trucker. Lewis doesn't like the way this is going, but Fuller eggs him on. Eventually, the trucker is seduced into turning up at a motel with a bottle of pink champagne, expecting to find the sexy chick from the CB. What happens next is fairly horrific and from then on Lewis, Fuller and eventually Venna are on the run from a massive black rig with a psychopath at the wheel.

Dahl makes brilliant use of the mid-western landscape, creating a mood of foreboding amongst the wide open spaces. Not since Breakdown has a road movie felt so nerve-racking. There are scenes in a corn field that beggar belief. While considering their feasibility, the chances are you've wet your pants.

Zahn is an oddball actor who specialises in dope heads. It's always good to see him. He has an energy and humour that more conventional young studs, such as Walker, don't possess. Sobieski, also, is interesting - remember her in The Glass House? She has the support role here, but carries an integrity, not unlike Jodie Foster, that gives her instant access to your attention.

If the scriptwriters hadn't stretched credibility so far, this would have been one of the best thrillers of the year. Dahl makes compelling movies. He has learnt one thing from Spielberg. The first duty of a filmmaker is to tell a story.

Reviewed on: 24 Apr 2002
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Steve Zahn and Paul Walker are brothers, who are chased by a psycho trucker driver.
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Director: John Dahl

Writer: Clay Tarver, J J Abrams

Starring: Steve Zahn, Paul Walker, Leelee Sobieski, Jessica Bowman, Stuart Stone, Basil Wallace, Brian Leckner

Year: 2001

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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