Beyond the Reach (2014)

Beyond the Reach (2014)
  • Time: 90 min
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Director: Jean-Baptiste Léonetti
  • Cast: Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine, Ronny Cox, Hanna Mangan Lawrence


A high-rolling corporate shark (Michael Douglas) and his impoverished young guide (Jeremy Irvine) play the most dangerous game during a hunting trip in the Mojave Desert in this lean, mean cat-and-mouse thriller.


  • A wily and weathered Michael Douglas, playing a corporate baddie, is one reason to see Beyond the Reach. Another is up-and-comer Jeremy Irvine run across the New Mexico desert in nothing but his underwear. Neither reason is good enough to sit through the plodding survival thriller.

    Directed by Jean-Baptiste Léonetti and adapted by Stephen Susco from Robb White’s 1972 novel Deathwatch, Beyond the Reach takes its inspiration from The Most Dangerous Game and The Naked Prey. the former, based on the 1924 short story by Richard Connell, has spawned many a film adaptation and television episode as well as inspired countless variations of the hunting humans as prey theme (Battle Royale, The Hunger Games). The latter, loosely based on the experiences of explorer John Colter, is an underseen gem starring the then 52-year-old Cornel Wilde as the stripped-to-the-waist safari guide pursued by tribesmen through the South African veldt. In many respects, the role of the hunted would have been an intriguing one for Douglas, whose trademark machismo has now been tempered by the fragility that is part and parcel of growing older.

    Instead, Douglas is Madec, a high-rolling mogul come to town to bag himself a bighorn sheep to add to his hunting trophies. Paired with Ben (Irvine), a young deputy and expert tracker, Madec sets off for the dangerous stretch of desert known as “The Reach.” Ben is wary of this outsider with his tricked-out Mercedes SUV (valued at $500K) and his high-tech rifle imported from Austria. Madec is all too happy to show off his wealth – money affords him the satellite phone he uses in the desert to continue negotiating a deal with the Chinese worth hundreds of millions, money got him around acquiring the proper hunting permit, and it is money he extends to Ben to look the other way about that permit.

    Taking money to ignore the lack of a hunting license is one thing, accepting a bribe to cover up Madec’s accidental killing of an old mountain man is quite another. When Ben reneges on their deal to stay quiet about the murder, Madec orders Ben to strip to his skivvies and walk into the desert, where the blazing sun and lack of water is sure to finish him off in a matter of hours. Of course, Ben proves himself a most resourceful young man and not the type to die so easily.

    “I’ll just watch you wander around for a while,” Madec tells Ben, and much of the movie is watching Madec watch Ben wander for a while. It can make for ho-hum viewing, especially since the underlying themes of class and generational differences are quickly forgotten. The filmmakers tickle the viewer’s interest by having Madec while away the time by mixing some cocktails, relaxing on a lawn chair, and listening to classical music. These moments of camp, so few and far between, can’t come soon enough as one can only spend so much time admiring Irvine’s lean torso becoming increasingly burnt and blistered as he stumbles about the stark landscape (beautifully lensed by Russell Carpenter).

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  • “We had a deal. And where I come from, a deal is a deal.”

    It’s so much fun to watch a movie in which two individuals chase each other and a cat and mouse game begins resulting in a battle to the death. Recently we saw two Hollywood stars try this theme in “Killing Season”. It wasn’t exactly an impressive film and after a while the ping-pong game between the two opponents started to irritate. For “Beyond the reach” an old class act of Hollywood was recruited. Only this time it’s a unilateral hunt pattern that’s being showed here. Unfortunately, the film collapses like a failed soufflé at the end. For once it’s something that most film critics unanimously agree with. This time there are no diametrically opposed camps with contrarian views. This film had a promising start with chilling tension and an acclaimed chemistry between the two main characters. But the absurd and completely messed up ending screwed it completely and made absolutely no sense.

    Madec (Michael Douglas) is a pedantic rich man with an arrogant attitude, who acts as if the whole universe turns around his own little person. He arrives in a tiny village along the Mojave desert to hunt a bighorn (probably a missing trophy on the wall). Ben (Jeremy Irvine) is hired for this task. He’s a young guy who’s well known as the best tracker in that environment. Before you know it, they are on the move in a giant fairground attraction on 6 wheels (worth $ 500,000 and imported) equipped with satellite telephone, espresso machine, microwave oven and a remote-controlled music system. Madec has spared no expense for this trip and is also equipped with a Steyr Scout 308 imported from Austria. In retrospect, he’s also quite generous when it appears that he doesn’t really have a permit to shoot down the rare animal. Madec is a typical snob who thinks everything is for sale. Until the hunt ends in a catastrophe and he accidentally shoots the local desert dweller Charlie. Charlie is someone Ben knew for a long time already and probably learned him some tricks of survival and how to live in the wilderness. How it proceeds can be guessed easily. Ben suddenly becomes the hunted one in this relentless, scorching desert.

    The last movie I’ve watched with Douglas starring in, is “Last Vegas”. Overall this wasn’t a bad film and I watched it with pleasure. Yet Douglas fits better in a role as a charismatic manipulator and overwhelming bastard. A role as in “Falling Down” or “Fatal Attraction”. It was a pleasure to see him again shining as a sadistic,unassailable bad ass. Irvine also meets the expectations and apparently spent several hours in the gym. His upper body is more muscular than the one he showed in “The railway man.” His character stands in stark contrast to that of Douglas. An orphaned young man whose girlfriend just left him to start her studies at the university and for whom everyday life is financially more difficult than that of Madec. His battle against the elements in the desert was realistic and proved again he owns some excellent acting skills. Also the people of the makeup department deserve a pat on the shoulder.

    The highlight of the film is undeniably the acting of Douglas. The sadistic game that he plays in the sweltering desert and how he enjoys seeing his prey slowly but surely reaching the end, is absolutely top notch acting. The absolute worst part is the denouement. Not that it’s inconceivable (because everything can be bought with money), but it’s so abrupt. An excellent movie with an intriguing interplay that’s being performed for more than an hour, is being reduced into a pale third-rate thriller in sheer 10 minutes. Was there a plausible ending, than this would have been a masterful film.

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