Netflix UK film review: Beyond the Reach
“Fool me once, shame on you.”3
“Fool me twice...”3
“I KILL YOU!”3
Josh Slater-Williams | On 31, Jul 2015
Director: Jean-Baptiste Léonetti
Cast: Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine
Watch Beyond the Reach online in the UK: Netflix UK / Curzon Home Cinema / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Adapted from Robb White’s novel, Deathwatch, Beyond the Reach sees a revival of that now classic conceit of The Most Dangerous Game: man hunting man.
Michael Douglas is Madec, a high-rolling corporate shark taking a hunting trip in the Mojave Desert. Jeremy Irvine is Ben, his poor, young guide from a local town, who’s going through hard times with his childhood sweetheart, now off at college elsewhere in the country. While out on the trip, Madec accidentally shoots a surprise human visitor from afar. He bribes Ben to keep mum about the incident, but Ben has a personal attachment to the deceased and wants to tell the authorities. With a big deal pending with Chinese investors, Madec naturally thinks manslaughter or murder charges might not be the best publicity. And so Ben swiftly ends up as the next target of Madec’s high-powered rifle.
Cue a game of cat and mouse – or possibly coyote and roadrunner, thanks to the association the valley setting provides and the appearance of dynamite. The cartoonish qualities Beyond the Reach takes on also make it seem like those Looney Tunes shorts reworked with human stars (where the coyote’s Acme products actually tend to work, for the most part). While on paper this might sound like a pleasingly daft genre film, the result is a strangely dull journey. The reliably bland Jeremy Irvine is reliably bland, which doesn’t exactly help, but as what’s practically a cocktail of his characters from Wall Street, Falling Down and The Game, one would think Douglas alone could raise the film’s pulse when Irvine flat-lines. While he definitely gets a few instances of engaging scenery-chewing (including, of all things, a WALL-E impersonation), his fleeting moments of baffling bizarreness aren’t enough to salvage this ropy thriller.
A big part of the film’s failure is in tone. Director Jean-Baptiste Léonetti can’t seem to settle on whether he wants to make pulpy exploitation, a satirical rumination on the divide between rich and poor, a Hemingway-lite machismo brawl, or, as suggested by how the third act devolves, a blend of bogeyman slasher and 80s action.
It’s a mess aesthetically, too. Having shot in the Monument Valley that served classic John Ford westerns so well, the jittery editing allows little to no majesty to sink in from the surroundings, nor for Ben’s physical deterioration to have a real visceral impact. The digital photography, meanwhile, has a particularly murky quality to it that’s closer to Z-grade Uwe Boll than John Ford.
Like with the films of Mr. Boll, the blunt farce of Beyond the Reach’s disastrous final act takes on a briefly transcendent quality, as though No Country for Old Men was made in the 80s with Anton Chigurh reworked to be more like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Again, under the supervision of different talent behind the scenes, that might sound like a nicely gonzo mess. With the filmmakers it has, though, Beyond the Reach can’t even reach the status of pleasant distraction. Best to send this product back to Acme.
Beyond the Reach is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.