By: Addison Wylie
Beyond the Reach is an illogical movie filled with ridiculous things. Unfortunately, its tediousness stops me from recommending Jean-Baptiste Léonetti’s thriller as Friday night schlocky fodder. It’s a shame since Beyond the Reach could effortlessly bring down the house in front of a drunken midnight crowd.
Léonetti’s film is one of those movies that’s easy on the eyes, and gravel to our ears. The filmmaker’s director of photography is Russell Carpenter, an expert on how action movies should look. You’ve seen him at work on high-octane flicks such as True Lies and the Charlie’s Angels movies. Here, he has help from the picturesque New Mexico locations, but he skillfully frames gorgeous wide shots for our pleasure. In some scenes, we’re convinced they’ve animated over paintings.
Then, Stephen Susco’s screenplay starts to hog the spotlight. Adapting from Robb White’s novel Deathwatch, Susco fills this cat-and-mouse chase with tacky characterization and dialogue.
Jeremy Irvine plays Ben, a small-town tracker assisting a rich out-of-towner named Madec (played by Michael Douglas, who also serves as a producer). Susco’s script, along with Léonetti’s underwhelming direction, bludgeon the different personalities into the ground. The audience is reminded multiple times that Ben is a humble good ole’ boy and Madec is a fancy affluent hot shot. The glares emitting from Irvine and the smugness from Douglas couldn’t be bigger if both actors tried. Douglas’ hammy performance is particularly stale since he basically played a non-violent version of this smarmy role in the rom-com bust And So It Goes.
A secret and a scandal are conceived in the dessert when Ben and Madec are hunting game on a private trip. Madec blackmails Ben, and suddenly the hunter becomes the hunted as Madec grows unstable and Ben fears for his life.
Most of the movie occurs with little dialogue as hunky Ben flees from manic Madec. This concept could be intriguing, but too many details are too convenient for our protagonist. How can we invest ourselves and worry about the film’s lead when we’re promised he’ll probably be okay throughout the story?
The only unpredictable qualities in Beyond the Reach are followed by unintentional comedy. Some examples: a bond is formed over impressions of WALL-E, Ben teaches himself how to be a pro with a slingshot while residing within the rocky mountainside, and there’s an absurd cop-out escape involving a helicopter that magically materializes out of the film’s dim continuity.
Consider Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried. The suspense in that film is unsettling because the race against time is up in the air. Evil winning is equally unbelievable as it is coherent. Jean-Baptiste Léonetti should’ve watched that movie and taken notes.