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BEYOND THE REACH

July 30, 2015

Film + EntertainmentReview | by Francesco Cerniglia


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Gone are the days when Michael Douglas was a good actor, judging from his performance in Beyond The Reach. The seasoned thespian has a collection of fantastic films under his belt and it is surprising after watching this new one just why he decided to add it to his filmography.

He plays John Madec, a businessman with a hunting hobby who hires rookie tour guide Ben (Jeremy Irvine) for a field trip to hunt game in the Mojave desert. However something goes terribly wrong as Madec accidentally shoots an old prospector and wants to get away with it. When Ben insists that they must report the accident, Madec points his rifle at the boy and forces him to strip down to nothing other than his underwear, planning to leave him in the desert to die of dehydration and starvation.

The corrupt Madec wants to frame Ben for the murder and he’s obviously convinced the boy won’t survive in the desert but as he observes him from afar, Madec soon realizes that Ben is more resourceful than he thought and so engages in a sadistic man-hunt to finish him off.

Beyond The Reach has a 90s vibe with no CGI, letting the camera and the actors do all the work. Although that’s admirable, the film most certainly needed a way more solid script than the one it works with. The narrative is confusing to say the least. The beginning could be interpreted as a film about two lovers going their separate ways with Ben and his girlfriend physically going different directions. As the film progresses, a sort of road trip story with a father-like figure and a son-like character going into the wilderness and bonding together over their lives is also hinted until the film takes a new direction and seems to attempt a full-blown action/psychological thriller.

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These two frequently used and exhausted narratives are completely turned on their heads as the events unfold in Beyond The Reach. It becomes a hunting trip gone-wrong within the first 20 minutes which results in Ben walking around the desert in nothing but his underwear.

Yet there’s no character development aside from a snippet of a back story to Ben who reveals both his parents have died. Unlike most films that give the audience a sense of foreboding towards the events to come, Beyond The Reach lacks a clear explanation of why these events are happening.

Intertextual links and references to other films can be very entertaining and the filmmaker does not fail to do so which did humour me for roughly five seconds. Instead of referencing a similar film such as one of Sergio Leone’s iconic scores from one of his Spaghetti Westerns, Michael Douglas’ character quotes the Pixar film Wall-E. Maybe it was an attempt to reinforce the isolation of the characters or maybe the director Jean-Baptiste Leonetti didn’t think things through when reading the script? I may not be a scriptwriter or film director yet it appears obvious to me the lack of a link between an action/psychological thriller and a Pixar animation that focuses on a robot.

The concept of humans against nature is an interesting point that the film brings up, however there are no realistic developments. Ben, for instance, walks in the scorching sun for nearly 24 hours without water or clothes and yet keeps managing to avoid death. Someone please tell me if this is possible?

As a big fan of nature and animals, I was immediately put-off at the thought of watching a film focussed around hunting but one thing that really stood out was actually the lack of wildlife. The only sign of any living creature besides the two men are vultures flying over Ben as he stumbles through the desert. I cannot say that I am an expert in what creatures live in the American desert but I am positive there are some. Maybe the director was reinforcing the idea that Ben was the thing being hunted and not the hunter anymore but still a shot of a snake or some living animal would have created more realism.

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When you think the film is over, it actually carries on for another ten minutes with what tries to be a shoot-out but ends with an anti-climax which was expected and does not provide anything that would have made the film better towards the ending.

Yet among this negative feedback it’s worth mentioning how Beyond The Reach offers some truly beautiful shots of the landscape which reinforce the idea of isolation and how far away the characters are from civilisation. Plus, if you’re remotely interested in seeing Jeremy Irvine wearing nothing but his underwear for most of the running time, then this is the film for you.

Beyond The Reach is released in UK cinemas on July 31st

Steven Brown