Daily Archives: February 13, 2017

Beyond the Reach (2014)


*. Did you really think Gordon Gekko had redeemed himself? I know he seemed to have turned the page in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, but this is Michael Douglas we’re talking about and capitalism may sell out to China, but it doesn’t change its spots.
*. John Madec in this film is another corporate titan betraying the American dream to China, which makes him a familiar twenty-first century stereotype. Obviously this was a major political anxiety of the time, and played no small part in the election of Donald Trump. What’s interesting is that the Chinese are not the villains in these stories, but rather American businessmen who sell out. For the Chinese it’s just business. For people like Madec it’s akin to treason.
*. Beyond the Reach is not a very interesting movie. In the first place, it’s nothing new. It’s an updating of a movie-of-the-week called Savages (1974), which was in turn based on a YA (!) novel titled Deathwatch (1972). Going back further, it’s The Most Dangerous Game in the desert.
*. The direction by Jean-Baptiste Léonetti is too solemn and plodding. For an action-suspense film it never really builds, and we just start to feel like we’re suffering along with Ben. That sunburn was painful just to look at, as bad sunburns often are.
*. I think the biggest problem though is the character of Madec. Michael Douglas is fine, but he seems unsure of what was expected of him. In many ways he’s a comic figure, what with his bespoke SUV, hunting rifle, and cappuccino by the campfire, but this has the effect of making him less threatening. Is he even a real hunter? Does he take some sadistic pleasure in hunting Ben? Is he a corporate psychopath? There’s nothing wrong with hamming such a role up (Leslie Banks did it marvellously in The Most Dangerous Game), but the character still has to have some basic consistency and integrity. Madec ping-pongs back and forth between being an evil genius and a goof.
*. Jeremy Irvine is bland and buff as Ben, and doesn’t really give Douglas anyone to play against. There is a girlfriend who doesn’t play any role in the story at all (meaning if you left her out of the film, what difference would it make?). Ronny Cox rounds out the cast in a strangely ambiguous role as sheriff. Not strange and ambiguous, but strangely ambiguous. It’s left unclear to what extent, if any, he was in cahoots with Madec. And why would the movie want to leave this up in the air?
*. The score by Dickon Hinchliffe sounds like 28 Days Later doesn’t it? That’s what I kept hearing.
*. What a hopeless ending. They begin and end with dreams that foreshadow the action, and this had me shaking my head. It also made me wonder if the entire coda was a dream, as it made no sense whatsoever. Madec’s escape was preposterous, and his personally hunting Ben down in Colorado even more so. Could they not think of any other way to wrap things up? Because when you slap an ending like this on to a movie it’s much worse than having no ending at all.
*. It’s interesting that both the director and the location manager mention in the making-of featurette that they wanted the desert to look totally alien, like Mars. But surely it’s meant to recall John Ford’s Monument Valley. It is a mythic, not an alien landscape.
*. Well, the locations are nice to look at, and the SUV and rifle are powerful product placement, but the script here is really a mess of parts that don’t fit together, which is actually quite remarkable given how simple and minimalist a story it is. There was potential here for something much better, but I don’t think anyone really knew what they were doing.