The most recent film from director Jean-Baptiste Léonetti (“Carré Blanc”) is the American thriller film, from 2014, titled “Beyond The Reach”.
The plot of the movie was adapted by screenwriter Stephen Susco (“Red”, “The Grudge 2”) from “Deathwatch”, a 1972 book by American adventure novelist and screenwriter Robb White.
The movie opens with Ben (Jeremy Irvine – “The World Made Straight”, “War Horse”) running, apparently from someone or something, across a scorching hot desert wearing only his boxer shorts.
Ben then awakes and goes outside to find his childhood girlfriend Laina (Hanna Mangan Lawrence – “The Reckoning”, “X : Night Of Vengeance”) who is contemplating her move away that morning to the city in order to attend college.
Ben has decided to stay in the small Californian town on the edge of the Mojave desert in which the pair grew up, and work as a deputy for the local Sheriff (Ronny Cox – “Murder At 1600”, “Total Recall”) as part of the search and rescue team, and has the reputation of being the best tracker in the area.
When Ben turns up for work that morning he finds a Los Angeles businessman, Madec (Michael Douglas – “Basic Instinct”, “Last Vegas”), waiting. Madec has managed to obtain a rarely issued permit to hunt for a bighorn in the desert and the Sheriff has assigned Ben to guide Madec through the Reach, a vast desert basin.
Madec does the driving, in his $500,000 Mercedes 6×6 – the only one in the country and customised to include its own latte machine and industrial strength spotlights amongst other luxuries. He also has a high-grade Australian rifle that was custom made for him.
Once out in the desert Ben realises that Madec doesn’t, in fact, have a permit. Despite his principles, the chance to impress Laina and improve their standard of living finds Ben allowing himself to be bribed with a bundle of banknotes.
Things take a deadly turn, however, when Madec takes a shot with the sun in his eyes and then finds he has accidentally killed an old prospector, Charlie (Martin Palmer – “The Homesman”) who lived and mined in a cave in the desert. Ben wants to go and report the shooting, which would jeopardise and big money takeover that Madec is working on. Madec can’t afford for that to happen and so suddenly Ben finds himself as the prey.
Essentially a two character film for the majority of the running time, much of the success (or otherwise) or the story rests on the performances of Irvine and Douglas. At heart this is a kind of cat and mouse type tale, but Douglas is so compelling as the ruthless businessman that it more resembles a cat toying with a mouse knowing that the mouse has little chance of survival.
Aside from the dream of running through the desert and the start of the film, Irvine’s character Ben also has a few other dream sequences including one with Laina during the night in the desert and a later one involving Madec. Whilst I can see why they were included, I did personally feel that they were a little superfluous and that the movie would not have suffered – and may have been improved – without their presence.
Overall, though, this is a pretty decent thriller with a good performance from Irvine and a class turn by Douglas who manages to deliver some of Madec’s more cheesy dialogue with style and still portray him as a thoroughly unlikeable person with no obvious redeeming characteristics. Add some great cinematography in the beautifully bleak and inhospitable desert and it all adds up to a very entertaining 91 minutes. Good stuff…