Beyond The Reach Review

The Movie

Imagine if Gordon Gecko, Michael Douglas’ famous character in 1987’s Wall Street and its 2010 sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, had continued his rise to financial success to become a corporate shark, and incidentally avid big horns hunter, and wanted to hunt beyond the reaches of the Mojave Desert. And that to do so, he would hire a young but very experienced hunting guide, let’s call him Ben, with personal love and family issues. It is very likely that his self-assurance would lead him to accidentally shoot something else than a big animal... He would then surely try to convince Ben not to report the incident and the young guide would most likely refuse. A deadly survival game would then start between the two men. Well, this is the plot of Beyond the Reach.

The movie is the second adaptation of Deathwatch, a 1972 American young adult novel written by Robb White, a fairly prolific writer (26 novels between 1935 and 1979) who also wrote in the 50s the screenplays for William Castle’s Macabre, House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, 13 Ghosts and Homicidal.

It is mainly a classic survival story in which a rich man plays the most dangerous game: hunting another man (an idea which has always fascinated the movie industry from Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1932 The Most Dangerous Game to Ernest R. Dickerson’s 1994 Surviving the Game, and includes variations such as John Boorman’s 1972 Deliverance (to which Beyond the Reach pays a direct homage to by casting one of the “hunted”, Ronnie Cox, in the role of the sheriff) or John Woo’s 1993 Hard Target); however, there are three attractions to the movie.

The first one is Douglas as Madec. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, it is not unusual to see him play a rich businessman, such as in the aforementioned Wall Street but also in The Game or A Perfect Murder). However, Douglas still manages to bring to the character a new side which he hasn’t explored before such as its underlined attachment to real business values as demonstrated by his reaction to Ben’s reversal after they shook hand. This allows the actor to differentiate Madec from your archetypal rich businessman only interested in the kill and gives a more interesting setting for the story.

The second interesting element is the confrontation of young Ben’s old fashioned style to old Madec’s new technology one. This is perfectly illustrated by Madec’s highly sophisticated Mercedes SUV which brings an interesting and fun perspective on the use of technology for over-the-top domestic use. The Mercedes is clearly presented as the third character of the survival game, a sort of high tech henchman to Douglas’ Madec. The confrontation of old fashion and new technology also introduces an interesting element of social warfare (Ben, the poor, lives in the middle of the desert in an old bungalow and Madec, the rich, uses money every time he encounters an obstacle) which reinforces the thematic link with director Jean-Baptiste Léonetti’s previous film Carré blanc in which the main character lives in a world controlled by a caste system in which those who play the "game" correctly become higher and more powerful. However, this interesting element is never really sufficiently developed and ends up being drowned in thriller clichés by the end of the movie.

The third one is the amazing, and very cinematographic, landscapes of the Mojave Desert. On this aspect, Lénonetti showcases a solid technical know-how for his first North American directorial achievement and shows potential for his future career (a least style-wise). The director films the Navajo reservation with a great sense of style making effective use of the diversity of background and settings put at his disposal (mountains, desert and mines). Seeing Douglas in this environment definitely falls within cinematic fantasy and makes me regret that he never acted in a real Western!

The Disc

Chelsea Films is releasing Beyond the Reach on DVD on 12th October.

I have only reviewed the DVD version of the movie but, even if its video qualities are quite good, taking into account the amazing scenery used by Lénonetti in the movie and the great job done by director of photography Russell Carpenter (cinematographer on... Hard Target), I can only advise fan of Michael Douglas and of above average survivals to get the blu-ray edition of the movie.

On the audio side, the DVD offers 2 soundtrack options: 5.1 Dolby Digital and stereo 2.0, both clear and without any issues.

The bonus section is typical of recent above average DVD edition: an informative but harmless featurette in which the main contributors explain the plot and what attracted them in the project (11 min). The only other bonus is the trailer for the movie.

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