Road Kill (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/04/2002

Four out of five stars
Running time: 98 mins

Superb thriller that delivers on every level – thrills, suspense, shocks, great performances, a genuinely scary villain and a sharp, frequently funny script.

These days it’s all too rare to see a thriller that doesn’t disappoint in some way or other, so when a roller coaster ride as good as Roadkill comes along it needs to be grabbed with both hands and clung to for dear life.

It’s directed by John Dahl, who made a good name for himself as a thriller director with the superb Red Rock West and The Last Seduction, before floundering with his next two (Unforgettable and Rounders) – however, from the looks of Roadkill, this is definitely a return to form.

Paul ‘The New Keanu’ Walker (from The Fast and The Furious) stars as Lewis, a university student driving across the country because he thinks he stands a good chance of getting lucky with his best friend and potential future girlfriend Venna (Leelee Sobieski, whose resemblance to a young Helen Hunt grows more disturbing with each film). On the way, he stops to bail his older, ne’er-do-well brother Fuller (Steve Zahn, excellent as always) out of jail.

Starved for fun on the journey back (and, perhaps, nostalgic for the 1970s), Fuller gets a CB radio installed in Lewis’ car and, in no time at all, persuades Lewis to play a practical joke on a lonely trucker with the CB handle ‘Rusty Nail’. However, the prank goes horribly, horribly wrong and, when the two guys pick up Venna, all three of them find themselves pursued by the psychotic trucker…

Roadkill went through several different titles (including Squelch and Joy Ride, which was its title in the States) and release date changes before finally opening here, something that is normally not a good sign. Similarly, the DVD apparently contains another THREE alternate endings, so presumably there were re-shoots somewhere along the line. Luckily, however, the film has emerged intact and remains extremely enjoyable, much of which is down to the actors.

The performances are all excellent. Walker is better here than he was in The Fast and the Furious, Sobieski is temptingly gorgeous and a top-billed Steve Zahn, always an excellent character actor, gets a real chance to shine here, nicking all the best lines into the bargain. Wisely, Dahl never lets you actually see Rusty Nail (something Jeepers Creepers could have learned from), but he is creepily voiced by an unbilled Ted Levine (from Silence of the Lambs).

There’s no shortage of Shallow And Obvious Reasons to see the film either, whether it’s Leelee Sobieski in her figure-hugging halter-top or a hilarious scene where both Fuller and Lewis have to walk into a diner naked. Crucially though, Dahl pulls off the shocks and the suspense sequences to produce some genuinely terrifying moments.

It’s true that, to a certain extent, Roadkill is Duel, The Hitcher and every ‘psycho-killer in a massive truck’ movie you’ve ever seen, all over again. It certainly has its fair share of Wildly Implausible Moments. However, the script, direction and acting are all so spot-on that you’ll forgive any flaws and just be glad you’re along for the ride. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 23/07/2018 12:49

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