Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush) and Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton) are on spring break and decide to stay with their friends. They are traveling there in Jim’s 1970 Oldsmobile 442. While driving at night in the rain, they swerve out of the way to avoid hitting a man (Sean Bean) in the middle of the road beside a stranded car and, at Grace’s admonishment, they don’t stop to talk to him or pick him up. They continue on to a gas station for food, gas and to have the gas station attendant call someone to go back and bring a tow for the man they almost hit. Oddly, a tractor trailer pulls up at the gas station and drops off the man Jim almost hit. Jim apologizes to him and the man introduces himself as John Ryder and asks for a ride to which Jim, feeling guilty for what happened earlier and Grace being in the bathroom, quickly agrees. After a short while into the ride, Ryder starts asking Jim lurid, vulgar questions about Grace and suddenly breaks Jim’s cell phone and puts a knife to Grace’s face. In order to save Grace and himself, Jim speeds up then slams on the braes so Ryder’s head is flung into the windshield and Jim kicks him out the door. They speed away but Grace’s working cell phone lands besides Ryder. Jim and Grace’s troubles with Ryder are not over and, in fact, they’ve just begun!
This is a remake of the 1986 movie of the same name and starring Rutger Hauer (Ryder), C. Thomas Howell (Jim) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Nash – Grace in this remake). I won’t compare it too much with the original other than to say that this is basically a shot-for-shot remake of the original, making it almost unnecessary to produce. Sean Bean does a good replacement in Rutger Hauer’s role as John Ryber and Zachary Knighton & Sophia Bush do okay in C. Thomas Howell & Jennifer Jason Leigh’s roles. There are no real differences between this and the original, other than the actors and a few pointless changes, mostly the ending.
When I first heard of this remake being done, I groaned with agony! I really did because I thought the original was perfect as it was done. I saw no point in this remake being done. I didn’t recognize anyone and thought the actor playing Ryder would totally suck in Rutger Hauer’s place. But, it turns out that I just didn’t recognize the name, Sean Bean, who had roles in some hit movies such as Silent Hill (2006), National Treasure (2004), Troy (2004), The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as Boromir, among many others. After this role as Ryder, I won’t forget his name! While he can never replace Rutger Hauer, he does a terrific job in his own right.
The story is just like that of its predecessor. It’s basically about a lunatic hitchhiker with a death wish and unknown identity, Ryder (not his real identity), who is picked up by unsuspecting people on the desolate highways of the southwest, only to be terrorized and killed by him. This time, he has targeted two young people, Grace and Jim, who, upon discovering Ryder’s lunacy and plans for them, fight back lie no one else has. Whether Ryder targeted them because of this or it was just dumb luck, Ryder has found two people who fight back with ferocity and he sort of feels a morbid and bizarre kinship with them. Ryder respects them to the point of not killing them immediately and for reasons unbeknownst to us, he sets them up repeatedly to appear as the killers to the law. Law officers believe that Jim & Grace are the ones leaving a trail of killing until Lieutenant Esteridger is on the case, puts two and two together and go after the mysterious man calling himself John Ryder.
It’s a story of mayhem, carnage, terror, killing for unknown reasons, framing others and one man’s death wish. You are always on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what act of insanity Ryder will perform next! A lot of details about the characters, especially Ryder, and their past are not told to us and left to open our speculation. Normally, we like to know about the characters’ backgrounds but in the case of John Ryder and this movie, less is more. Unconditional killers who attack for unknown reasons create an intriguing mystery which pulls you in for the ride.
The film leaves you with several unanswered questions about John Ryder. Who is he really? Why is he killing everyone? Why does he have a death wish and run into situations where he can die, does he have a fatal illness and ant to go out on a rush? Why has he singled Jim & Grace? Where did he learn to fight and kill so efficiently? The questions roll through our minds throughout the movie and creates topics of conversation afterwards. Some might scoff at this notion but this is a positive, in my opinion.
The actors and actress do a fine job. There are really only four starring roles in this movie so they’re easy to keep track of.
Sean Bean definitely steals the show. He performs almost flawlessly as the lunatic, Ryder, albeit just a step behind Hauer.
Relative no namer, Zachary Knighton, does about the same job as Jim Halsey, adequate.
Sophia Bush, another relative no namer except for “One Tree Hill”, plays okay but not great in Jennifer Jason Leigh’s role, as the female lead. Her role is changed a bit from Leigh’s being a truck stop waitress (Nash) and being pulled into the melee at a later point in time to Bush’s being Jim’s girlfriend (Grace) and being a part of the melee from the beginning. An odd change with the same outcome but, of course, it clears up the whole “fall in love in one day” phenomena found only in…Hollywood! I didn’t care about Bush’s version as much as I did Leigh’s but not bad.
And, finally, Jeffrey DeMunn does a great job as Captain Esteridge, the officer who links Ryder to the killing spree.
The setting of the southwest desert is perfect, as it adds a sense of desolation. There is quite a bit of blood which might bother some viewers but I don’t think it is too much. Several car and helicopter crashes and explosions round out the violence. Unmemorable soundtrack.
Overall, this is not a bad movie, as much as I had originally wanted it to be. It’s very well done and almost as good as the original but no remake can ever truly replace the actors of a cult classic; not even with a few scene changes. The ending really changed a bit, same outcome but to different characters. Sean Bean’s about the main reason to view it. This is worth a view, even by fans of the original.