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Beyond the Reach (2 stars)

Ludicrous thriller pitting Jeremy Irvine against a crazed Michael Douglas

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Beyond the Reach

Imagine if Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko and Falling Down’s William 'D-Fens' Foster got together in the wilderness, had a few drinks and went totally mental. This intriguing visual has clearly driven screenwriter Stephen Susco’s adaptation of Robb White’s 1972 novel Deathwatch (previously made into the 1974 TV movie Savages), which casts Michael Douglas as Madec, a wealthy insurance mogul who goes rogue while hunting in the Mojave desert.

After he accidentally kills the local hermit, Madec attempts to buy the silence of his guide Ben (Jeremy Irvine); when his bribe fails, he casts Ben naked into the wilderness. What follows has the potential to be a tense game of cat and mouse, but is instead a preposterous pantomime of campy excess. The fundamental flaw is Madec himself; there is no logic behind his sudden switch from rich asshole to outright sadist, and he gains too much pleasure from Ben’s suffering to simply be saving his own skin.

Even an actor as experienced and talented as Douglas can’t redeem this flimsy characterisation, particularly given the B-movie dialogue he has to chew on. (‘I WILL KILL YOU!’ he screeches, while hurling sticks of dynamite.) And while Irvine has more to work with, Ben being both resourceful and interesting, his performance is unavoidably overshadowed by Douglas’ cocktail-swilling brand of villainy.

It also overwhelms the finer points of the narrative. While this is a story fuelled by the gap between rich and poor, that explores the moral freedoms afforded by unlimited wealth, these insights are blunted to the point of farce by the screenplay’s unsubtle approach and a tacked-on ending that manages to be even more ludicrous than everything that has come before.

Despite the savage beauty of its location – evocatively lensed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Russell Carpenter (Titanic, Ant-Man) and well-utilised by director Jean-Baptiste Léonetti – Beyond the Reach is a thoroughly daft thriller that fails to reach the heights of its source material.

Selected release from Fri 31 Jul.

Beyond the Reach

  • 2 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 95 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Jean-Baptiste Léonetti
  • Cast: Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine, Hanna Mangan Lawrence
  • UK release: 31 July 2015

Hunting in the Mojave desert, insurance mogul Madec (Douglas) accidentally kills a man and proceeds to hunt down his guide Ben (Irvine), a witness to the killing. What could have been a tense chase becomes a preposterous exercise in campy excess, with good actors wasted on flimsy characterisation and a daft plot.

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