Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for some Violence
Directed by: Jean-Baptiste Leonetti
Written by: Stephen Susco
(based on the novel DEATHWATCH by Robb White)
Starring: Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine, Ronny Cox & Hanna Mangan-Lawrence
BEYOND THE REACH is the second human-hunting thriller to come out this year (the first being PRESERVATION). Adapted from the young-adult novel DEATHWATCH, this film premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival to some positive buzz. The movie stars Michael Douglas in a villainous role, so it also had that going for it. Sadly, neither of these things prevent BEYOND THE REACH from overstaying its welcome by 30 minutes and going into stale, clichéd, overly familiar territory.
Ben is a hunting guide who lives near the Mojave Desert. His latest client is the wealthy, powerful John Madec. Madec is a cocky businessman who reveals that his penchant for hunting is strictly for the trophies and he doesn’t think too highly of Ben (due to his low-class position and young age). The distrust between these two men gets even deeper when John wildly fires his rifle at what he believes to be a big-horn sheep, only to discover that it was an old prospector. Seeing as John doesn’t want Ben soiling his career with this crime, he makes Ben strip down to his undies and forces him to walk out into the desert. While Ben desperately wanders around looking for possible means of survival, John drinks martinis and watches from the scope of his rifle. A game of cat-and-mouse ensues in the deadly landscape as Ben tries to turn the tables on John.
What separates this “humans hunting humans” tale from the rest of its competition is that John is a shady businessman who decides not to necessarily hunt Ben, but rather let nature do the job for him. The desert environment keeps things interesting as there is plenty of barren landscape where John can clearly keep an eye on Ben and a lack of water that makes both Ben (and the viewer) thirsty. You can practically feel the heat from some of the cinematography and scenery. Michael Douglas also fares well playing a sociopathic hunter turned rifle-wielding baddie. However, his performance does get over-the-top during the final third. While Douglas begins with little verbal jabs aimed at Ben during the first third of the film, he’s yelling nonsense like “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, I kill you!” in the final 30 minutes. As you might imagine, those lines are every bit as eye-rolling and face-palm worthy as they sound.
Douglas is the only performer/character worth mentioning in a positive light though, because Ben is one bland protagonist. We don’t know much about him other than the typical clichés you usually see in this type of character. He’s running a family business and experiencing relationship problems. As if the movie couldn’t get any cheesier, Ben has hallucinations of his even blander girlfriend urging him to carry on. The story is littered with clichés and gets really stupid during its finale. By which I mean, the last 10-minute epilogue felt like it was tagged on for no good reason. Seeing as the movie is essentially one man stalking the other through a desert, you’d think the filmmaker would try his best to keep things interesting. At over 90 minutes, the running time feels severely stretched.
There are qualities to like about this film and an equal amount of qualities to dislike. Michael Douglas puts in a good performance, before becoming a cartoon character during the last third. The desert landscape is certainly a threatening one and seems like a somewhat fresh setting to throw this kind of MOST DANGEROUS GAME scenario into. The main problems come from the movie wearing out its welcome and the protagonist being about as bland as bland can be. BEYOND THE REACH is the kind of movie that might serve as an okay time-waster if you’re suffering from a case of insomnia and run across it on Netflix or late-night cable. Otherwise, I recommend skipping this film in favor of better MOST DANGEROUS GAME-inspired entertainment.