John Dahl (Red Rock West, The Last Seduction) brings new meaning to the term road rage with his slickly enthralling thriller, Joy Ride. Upstanding Berkeley undergrad Lewis Thomas (Paul Walker) ditches his plane ticket home to New Jersey in order to pick up the coed of his dreams, Venna (Leelee Sobieski), in Boulder, Colo. Along the way, he makes an unplanned stop to grab his ne'er-do-well brother, Fuller (Steve Zahn), who's just been sprung from the pen in Salt Lake City. A humorous but embittered fuck-up, Fuller takes uncalculated pleasure in baiting his strait-laced younger sibling and showing him the ugly side of human nature. When Fuller coerces Lewis into playing a prank on a trucker they stumble across over the sound waves of their CB radio, an innocent stranger ends up dead and the pranksters become the target of their foil. What might have been a yawn-filled display of disappearing headlights and highway bumps becomes a taught, nail-biting thrill ride under Dahl's adept direction. Placing his captives at the merciless hand of their tormentor (and wonderfully graying the line between who's noble and ignoble with an almost sympathetic villain hunting down the insolent Fuller), Dahl ensures that the suspense keeps up at a relentless pace. Fun, smart, and damn scary, Joy Ride is an overwhelming breath of fresh air in a movie season of not-so-thrilling thrillers.