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Friday, May 1, 2015

Beyond the Reach

There has to be something half way decent released this week, right?

Just to be clear, this really, really, really isn't it.

This review is also up at Channel 24

What it's about

After a hunting trip in the Mojave Desert goes horribly wrong, a young guide becomes the target of the corporate shark he was supposed to be accompanying.

What we thought

Despite some beautifully filmed American vistas and a gleefully demented (though often misjudged and occasionally irritating) turn from Michael Douglas as a very deadly corporate fat-cat, Beyond the Reach is unfortunately something of a dud for newcomer director, Jean-Baptiste Leonetti, who clearly wanted it to be his great calling card for a wider, non-French-speaking audience.

Sadly, I can't make some terrible pun about Beyond the Reach exceeding its reach or anything because, ironically enough, the film actually doesn't have much reach – neither in terms of ambitions or mainstream accessibility. In effect, it's trying to be a very focused thriller about a “have” literally trying to hunt down and kill a “have not” for his own mistakes but, for all of the potential of its socio-economic overtones, it sadly fails to pique even the slightest interest in its stories or its characters – let alone in what it's trying to say.

There are some fairly obvious comparisons to something like No Country for Old Men with its mix of stripped-down cat-and-mouse thriller narrative and desolate American landscapes working as a backdrop for an exploration of modern life, but while the Coen Brother's relentlessly tough and ambiguous masterpiece succeeds brilliantly in both its generic thriller trappings and in its exploration of the changing face of evil in America, Beyond the Reach, very simply, doesn't.

Putting aside its “message” for a second, the film really doesn't work as a thriller. I mean, at all. Our “hero” is far too dull (Jeremy Irvine, who's been fine elsewhere, doesn't exactly help matters) to particularly care about, while Douglas' villain may be kind of fun in a hammy kind of way, but he lacks the nuance or believability for us to take him at all seriously. As such, the cat and mouse game between them doesn't particularly engage us emotionally and its far, far too tedious and repetitive to have any hope of packing any sort of visceral punch.

In its final act though, it goes from stupidly boring to just plain stupid as the film – which is a mere 95-minute sin length – goes on far beyond its logical end point, all the while Douglas' villain becomes more and more and more ludicrous with each passing second. The final act's madness would have been fine had the rest of the film had the same kind of overbaked feel but between its slow pacing, deadly serious tone and mind-numbingly monotonous thriller set-pieces in the first half and the gonzo, crazy psycho-thriller of its second half, it feels like two totally and tonally separate movies. Douglas' villain does kind of act as a connective tissue between the two halves but, aside for feeling out of place in the first half of the film, he's just nowhere strong enough to effectively tie it all together.

As for what the film's saying, it's just a bit too on-the-nose to really work as a fable for our current reality. It's message is something that I, as a centrist-lefty, basically agree with: the amoral and invincible heads of corporate giants do indeed have the habit of screwing over the “little guy” and receiving nothing but more power and bigger bonuses (starting to sound familiar?) for it – but the film still failed to get me to engage with its central thesis. Partly, I suspect because it was too obvious and too unambigious but mostly because it's hard to care about a film's subtext when its text is as uncaptivating as this.

Its quite stunning cinematography and earnestness do save the film from the dreaded one-star rating, but I can't really imagine anyone particularly enjoying this. Better luck next time Mr Leonetti – for what it's worth, I can definitely see the potential for greatness (or at least goodness) here but, at this point, that's sadly all it is.



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