Too inept to be taken as a good B-movie thriller, it's bound to rot in VOD purgatory.
Beyond The Reach
Adapted from Robb White’s novel “Deathwatch”, The Reach comes from sophomore filmmaker Jean-Baptiste Léonetti. Léonetti’s debut feature Carré blanc played at TIFF several years ago, and despite its flaws it showed a filmmaker with a great sense of atmosphere and visual style. Now the French director makes a crossover to the United States, directing a thriller with Michael Douglas in one of the lead roles. But The Reach shows all the usual signs of a foreign filmmaker making a clumsy transition to America.
Douglas plays Madec, a rich businessman wanting to hunt for bighorn sheep in the Mojave Desert. Young Ben (Jeremy Irvine) is assigned as his guide for the hunting trip, and the two set out in Madec’s massive, six-wheel SUV. Ben’s moral purity clashes with Madec’s greedy capitalist way of life, a tension that finally explodes when Madec mistakes an old prospector for an animal, shooting and killing the old man. Ben wants to go to the authorities, but Madec, who’s in the middle of selling his business to China, refuses to let anything compromise his business deal. Madec turns on Ben, forcing him to strip and walk through the desert until he succumbs to the heat. From there it’s a cat and mouse game, with Ben using his knowledge of the area to repeatedly do his best to escape Madec.
If that premise sounds stupid, that’s because it is. Ben finds one possible way out after another, but Madec continually manages to stop him from succeeding, and this structure is insanely boring. Madec’s reasons for forcing Ben to slowly cook under the sun are flimsy at best, and idiotic at worst. Léonetti throws some nice shots of the desert in, but aside from that his work is surprisingly ugly to watch. Irvine shows off his body quite a bit (something Léonetti clearly enjoys, given how much the camera ogles Irvine’s abs), but he’s as bland as a 2×4 and can’t fake an American accent very well. Michael Douglas makes the most of his role, playing up the seediness of Madec, but he can’t do a single thing to fix the atrocious lines he has to deliver. He acts like a villain in a video game, at one point literally hurling dynamite from his SUV similar to Donkey Kong throwing barrels at Mario, and the quality of the screenplay is about on par with a video game. Case in point: At one point Douglas says “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…I KILL YOU!” If Jeff Dunham ever needs someone to fill in for him, Michael Douglas wouldn’t be a bad pick.
An overbearing score doesn’t help make things better, but the biggest offense comes in the final act. From there, The Reach goes from banal thriller to something hilariously awful, starting with one character’s random escape on a helicopter (I thought that sort of thing stopped in the ’80s?). The ending, significantly different from the source material, feels tacked on, like a move from producers to ensure a closer that will please audiences. If that’s the case, then their attention should have went to the rest of the film instead. Too inept to be taken as a good B-movie thriller, The Reach’s entertainment value is just as dry and empty as its vast desert location. It’s a film bound to rot in VOD purgatory, a fate it fully deserves.
Published under the original title The Reach on September 8th as part of our TIFF coverage.