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|Beyond the Reach
dir Jean-Baptiste Leonetti
scr Stephen Susco
prd Michael Douglas, Robert Mitas
with Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Ronny Cox, Martin Palmer, Patricia Bethune, Jadelyn Dawn Wilkins, David Garver, Eddy Glenn Patterson, Paul Hill, Noah Raley, Ryan Happy
release US 17.Apr.15, UK 31.Jul.15
14/US Lionsgate 1h31
Into the wild: Irvine and Douglas
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Despite a plot that doesn't hold up to scrutiny, this gritty little thriller draws the audience in with a punchy premise and strong actors. It's a freaky cat-and-mouse chase that at least has unpredictability on its side. So even though the film gets itself stuck in a corner about 30 minutes in, the tension builds right to the very end.
With his girlfriend (Lawrence) heading off to university in Denver, Ben (Irvine) is feeling lonely in rural New Mexico, where the local sheriff (Cox) finds him work as a tracker. His new client is the billionaire John (Douglas), whom Ben takes out to the reach to hunt bighorn. But when John's casual disregard for the law becomes dangerously apparent, he starts hunting Ben instead, waiting for him to die naturally in the heat. Of course, Ben knows the desert better than John suspects, which pits John's high-tech armoury against Ben's tenacity and experience.
This is one of those films in which the tables are continually turning, even though nothing quite rings true. Plot points come on cue, including the obvious finale. But at least Irvine and Douglas create believable characters, while director Leonetti beautifully captures the spectacular landscapes and the mood of a frontier town invaded by a hot-shot city slicker. So it's rather annoying that screenwriter Susco seems more interested in brutal violence than the characters themselves.
Within this, both Douglas and Irvine are a magnetic odd couple. Both men are smart and funny, offering telling glimpses into their back-stories along with a hint of moral quandary. An orphan with a heart of gold, Ben finds his integrity threatened by a roll of cash, and Irvine gives him a strong inner life as well as a resilient physicality, spending much of the film in just his underpants while Douglas manfully swaggers around like he's indestructible. Although there's never any convincing explanation for John's increasing sadism.
There's also a whiff of subtext as multinational corporate cash menaces small-town honesty. John has never lost at anything, gleefully stacking the odds in his favour, which makes Ben more sympathetic. It also helps obscure the far-fetched plot points (even John's whizzy jeep couldn't follow the fleet-footed Ben through mountains and ravines) and the filmmakers' fascination with pointlessly shooting things up. So as the thin story twists its way to a climactic showdown, it's riveting and strongly well-made, but eye-rollingly silly.
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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