Road Kill (15)
A college freshman and his jailbird brother get more than they bargained for when they pull a stunt over their CB radio and persuade a gravely-voiced trucker named Rusty Nail that one of them is a hot little lady called Candycan.
But their joke falls horribly flat when they send the trucker to a false motel room and he exacts a terrible revenge on the stranger he finds there – tearing off his lower jaw and leaving him comatose. Then, across a rolling wasteland of roads and truckstops, a deadly game of cat-and-mouse begins…
A chilling combination of Duel and Breakdown, Road Kill (originally known as Joy Ride before a last-minute title change) boasts a string of Hitchcockian ‘McGuffins’ as movie siblings Steve Zahn and Paul Walker flee for their lives from an anonymous killer with the mother of all grudges.
As in all thrillers of this type the shadowy trucker is an extremely resourceful chap. The skin-crawling sound effects that accompany his various entrances set him up as something demonic and unstoppable – certainly not of this earth. Like the mysterious villain in Spielberg’s Duel he appears inhuman and, forgive the pun, utterly driven. CB radio has never sounded so threatening.
Zahn is excellent as the type of convict who never learns a lesson, while Walker, seen to good effect in last summer’s teen racer flick The Fast and the Furious, occupies centre stage as the brother with a conscience. He is rapidly moving up the scale of promising screen newcomers and Road Kill certainly offers him an opportunity to deliver something more than just the beach bum cyphers his blond locks and good looks have landed him so far.
Director John Dahl, he of The Last Seduction and Red Rock West, once again scratches the seedy underbelly of blue collar America and focuses his camera on the deadbeats he finds there. Only Leelee Sobieski, as the damsel in distress, provides any real innocence. Everyone else is some sort of scumbag.
Pacy, exciting and at times genuinely scary, Road Kill is several notches above the standard ‘yoof’ movie and, thanks to the script by Clay Tarver and Jeffrey Abrams, continues cranking up the tension until the very last reel.
Zahn and Walker enjoy tangible screen chemistry as the brothers at the heart of the tale, while the largely unseen villain of the piece would out-do Lee Marvin in the creepy bass voice stakes.
But the real hero here is Dahl who, after a recent flabby spell, has returned to form in the strangest genre imaginable. With noir classics like The Last Seduction under his belt it’s strange to see his name on this little number.
Then again, that’s what makes Road Kill worth watching.