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New Release Review - BEYOND THE REACH

A wealthy businessman takes extreme measures to cover up a hunting accident.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jean-Baptiste Leonetti

Starring: Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine, Ronny Cox, Hanna Mangan Lawrence




"Essentially 'Gordon Gekko hunts human prey', the film can't quite decide whether it's a scathing, serious social commentary or a down and dirty drive-in flick. The bones of a decent B-movie are here, but it seems they've been picked dry by vultures."



In 1932's The Most Dangerous GameJoel McCrea and  Fay Wray find themselves hunted for sport by Leslie Banks' eccentric millionaire Count Zaroff in the jungles of his isolated island home. It's a template that's been rejigged many times down the years in movies like the Ozploitation classic Turkey Shoot, John Woo's Hard Target and 1994's Surviving the Game, which saw a homeless Ice-T hunted by Rutger Hauer and Gary Busey (I can't think of a more terrifying prospect). These movies usually carry a class system subtext, with rich villains hunting working class Joes, and Beyond the Reach, the latest addition to this sub-genre, is no different.
Buffed up and resembling a young Channing Tatum, Jeremy Irvine plays Ben, a moapy young tour guide in the Mojave Desert whose long-time girlfriend has just fled their small town for the big city and college life. Ben's latest client, wealthy businessman John (Michael Douglas), is willing to cut legal corners to hunt the protected Bighorn sheep, bribing his way into a permit from the local sheriff. When John accidentally shoots dead a local elderly man, he believes he can similarly pay off Ben to cover up the killing. Ben sticks to his moral code, however, and finds himself on the run from John, who is determined to erase any trace of his deed.
Jean-Baptiste Leonetti's film is adapted from a 1972 novel, Robb White's Deathwatch, and there's a definite '70s vibe about the piece, though it lacks the grit it possibly would have had if it were made 40 years ago. Essentially 'Gordon Gekko hunts human prey', the film can't quite decide whether it's a scathing, serious social commentary or a down and dirty drive-in flick. Douglas' character has a confusing arc; despite his initial killing being a complete accident, he's all too quick to go full psycho. By the third act he's morphed into a ludicrously over the top cartoon baddie, complete with villainous one-liners.
A diversion in a prospector's creepy home, decorated with photographs of a mystery Asian woman, suggest a twist into another genre - Douglas and Irvine forced to make peace while hunted by Hills Have Eyes type desert cannibals would have helped this movie no end - but sadly it leads nowhere. The bones of a decent B-movie are here, but it seems they've been picked dry by vultures.



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