This low-key indie thriller may not have the same fanfare as Marvel’s Ant-Man, but nevertheless similarly cements the fact that Michael Douglas still has some bite in him.Massively overshadowed by his celebrated supporting role in Marvel’s latest entry, Beyond the Reach barely registers by comparison, receiving a limited release that will likely see the film disappear almost as soon as it arrived. Based on the 1972 novel, Deathwatch, which was already made into a ’74 TV movie, the story sees Douglas’s billionaire businessman John Madec taking a trip out to the Mojave desert for some ‘off the books’ hunting, and bringing along Jeremy Irvine’s rookie guide to help him bag a few trophies. It’s not long, of course, before the prey turns to the more human variety.In light of recent news story about one particular rich American who illegally bagged some game, Beyond the Reach’s initial set-up might actually feel quite topical, and indeed the tale is largely about the notion of being able to buy your way through life, and also perhaps the lengths to which you would go to preserve that. Douglas’s Madec is all too easy to compare to the actor’s signature villainous turn as Gordon Gekko, although his big game hunter has sparks of conscience which may set him apart – that is, before he gets down to the art of cold blooded murder.
The simplicity of Beyond the Reach allows the film to function well within the limitations of a clearly tiny budget, making the most of the stunning signature Mojave backdrop (it’ll remind of you of everything from some early Eastwood flicks to Red Dead Redemption, and it’s an amazing setting) and trying to stretch the most out of a clearly minimalist script. Rather than going full-tilt down the whole Most Dangerous Game/Hard Target route (which, frankly, could have easily warranted a change of setting/updating, with Douglas on hand for a far more definitively villainous role), we get a much simple game of hunter and hunted, which actually starts with a few mistakes, bribes and uneasy alliances. Indeed, if it was simply about pulling the trigger, this film would have been over in half the time.
Unfortunately, that simplicity does also lead latter events to stretching plausibility, and oftentimes feeling like they needed to just keep the hunt going a little bit longer, even if that’s a necessity to make it a ‘feature’ film. Ultimately, some of it works, and some of it doesn’t – Douglas definitely falls into the former category, proving a watchable, compelling lead even opposite a lesser experienced no-name actor who struggles to even stand in his shadow; the setting too lends the films some rich authenticity and is certainly made the most of.
It’s nice to know that Douglas still has some bite to him, and hopefully he’ll get a few more choice roles before age truly overtakes him.
Conversely, the plot dynamics call for some pretty silly shenanigans particularly towards the latter part of the film, culminating in a dream-like episode which would be better regarded as just that: a dream. It’s undoubtedly another example of a Hollywood bookend which unnecessarily softens any potential sting that the film could have otherwise carried.
Beyond the Reach is a watchable little indie thriller which may not warrant a trip to the flicks but will probably be reasonably entertaining on the home front. At the very least, between this and Ant-Man, it leaves audiences remembering what Douglas is still capable of, and just how watchable an actor he is. Here's hoping they give us that Captain America-era Ant-Man prequel with him taking centre-stage. We can but dream.
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