Friday, August 28, 2015

Beyond the Reach

3/4

Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Michael Douglas, Ronny Cox, Hanna Mangan Lawrence

Rated R for Some Violence

A movie like "Beyond the Reach" depends on the viewer.  Either you buy into it or you don't.  If you allow yourself to get sucked into it, it's an enjoyable (if far from perfect) ride.  If you want it to do the work for you, it's going to be a trial.  I liked it, but I expect those who try to think too much will not.

Ben (Irvine) is saying good-bye to his girlfriend Laina (Lawrence), who is leaving for college on a scholarship.  He's staying behind to be a hunting guide.  That's when he gets a call from the sheriff (Cox).  A corporate hotshot named John Madec (Douglas) is in town to hunt big game.  When Madec and the sheriff gloss over the necessary paperwork, Ben has some misgivings, but the $1000 a day fee that Madec is offering sweetens the deal enough that he accepts.  Packed full of the latest European gadgetry, the two head off into the desert.  However, it isn't long before something goes wrong: Madec sees something move and impulsively takes a shot even though he's blinded by sunlight.  To their horror, he has killed not an animal, but a man.  Unwilling to throw his future away, Madec attempts to bribe Ben to help him cover it up.  But Ben won't play ball, and he soon learns that Madec has a mean streak.

This sort of psychological cat-and-mouse thriller depends on the skill of the director, and that's where it comes up short.  Director Jean-Baptiste Leonetti doesn't have a good sense of rhythm or pacing, which is essential for any thriller, especially one of this kind, to work.  The film never varies in its pace, and as a result, isn't that exciting.  Leonetti takes the film too seriously, electing for an understated, realistic tone.  That's all well and good, but a little more energy could have made this a lot more fun.

The acting is effective, but not standout.  Hollywood has been claiming that Jeremy Irvine is the next big thing, but while I'm warming up to him, I'm not that convinced.  There's no denying that he's got talent (especially compared to the likes of Robert Pattinson, and the other teen heartthrobs), but he has a tendency to underplay his roles.  That's the case here, and the result is a sort of flat and uncharismatic performance.  Michael Douglas does what he can, but the writing isn't there.  At first Madec is a guy caught in a terrible situation, but it isn't long before he goes full-on psycho.  It's not Douglas's fault; the writing isn't there.

I liked how both characters are smart.  True, the meat of the story is only allowed to happen when Ben does something extraordinarily stupid, but for the most part Ben and Madec are evenly matched.  Ben is smart and resourceful, but so is Madec.  Ben's sunburn deserves mention; the make-up is done well enough that I felt the pain just looking at it, but Ben doesn't seem to be feeling it.  How odd...

"Beyond the Reach" is a serviceable thriller up until the ending, which is as boneheaded as they come.  It reeks of studio interference; not only does it make no sense for one of the characters to behave this way, it comes after a dream sequence of the exact same thing!  It's also badly done.  Put it together and you've got a solid movie topped off with an ending so bad that it's unintentionally funny.

Even so, I enjoyed myself enough to recommend it.

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