Beyond the Reach Review
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Anyone who’s ever road-tripped across the country—or watched an old Western—knows that the desert can be harsh and bleak and deadly. And that makes it the perfect setting for the grueling but awkward face-off between two exceedingly dissimilar—yet equally unwavering—characters in Beyond the Reach.

Beyond the Reach battles the elements with Ben (Jeremy Irvine), a young guide who knows the Mojave Desert like the back of his hand. When ruthless businessman John Madec (Michael Douglas) arrives in town, hoping to add a bighorn to his trophy collection, he hires Ben to travel with him. It isn’t long, however, before the hunting trip goes horribly wrong and Madec accidentally kills a man. Desperate to keep his reputation from taking a hit on the eve of a big business deal, he tries to pay Ben to help him cover up his mistake. And when Ben refuses, he becomes Madec’s new target.

Michael Douglas has settled quite nicely into the role of the arrogant big shot—but, as John Madec, he gives the same old character a disturbing twist. Madec is outrageously wealthy and shamefully self-indulgent. For him, money is no object. Everything can be bought—whether it’s a massive Mercedes stocked with an espresso machine and a toaster oven or the government official standing between him and his dream of bagging a bighorn. But it soon becomes clear that Madec is also more than just slightly unhinged—to the point that some may wonder how someone this crazy could run a successful business. At times, the character’s quirks are amusing—like when he settles into his lounge chair with a martini in his hand and some classical music playing over his vehicle’s loudspeaker while his potential victim struggles to survive the harsh desert environment. At other times, however, he’s clumsily written and downright bizarre—and his behavior seems completely out of place in an otherwise serious thriller.

Still, the character’s occasionally over-the-top insanity helps to break up some of the film’s somewhat repetitive action. Poor, mild-mannered Ben is forced to fight for his life, taking refuge in the nooks and crannies and hideouts that he’s discovered through a lifetime of trekking through the desert. It’s a grueling battle of wills in an unforgiving setting—and, despite his blistering skin and raw feet, Ben quickly proves that he’s up for the task. Unfortunately, though, he isn’t a particularly vibrant character—and the desolate desert landscape provides just so many unique opportunities. So while the game of cat and mouse between the smart young guide and the ruthless hunter can definitely be nerve-wracking, the story eventually starts to drag toward its head-scratching conclusion.

The idea behind Beyond the Reach is certainly an intriguing one—one that had the potential to become a gripping thriller. But the characters are questionable, their motivation seems a bit sketchy, and the writing is sometimes just plain ridiculous, resulting in a tense but sometimes silly standoff.

Ed. Note: Beyond the Reach is now showing in theaters and on demand.

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