Beyond the Reach ✮✮
by Glenn Lovell
Like his old man Kirk, Michael Douglas is at his best playing world-class stinkers. Chalk it up to the Douglas genes: father and son have a bit of coyote in them. When their hackles are up, they clench their teeth and let forth with a distinctive gurgle-snarl.
While Douglas’s John Medec, the billionaire hunter in “Beyond the Reach” (VOD), doesn’t measure up to the actor’s reptilian Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street,” he still scores points on the meanie scale. Douglas’s character exudes disdain for all mere mortals; he’s to screen villains what the hooded cobra is to snakes.
We meet this guy on a hunting expedition in the Mojave Desert. Taking a breather from a business deal that could net him a cool $120 billion, he packs his high-powered Swiss rifle, gases up the six-wheel Mercedes-Benz SUV, and hires a young local guide who takes an instant dislike to the weekend hunter whose idea of roughing it is sitting ’round the campfire sipping a double espresso.
An accident realigns Medec and Ben (England’s Jeremy Irvine) as hunter and quarry. Medec forces the guide to strip and then tracks him through the sweltering 120 degree heat. Ben, of course, survives on his wits ‒ and the buried goods of a prospector friend.
If this sounds more than a little like “The Most Dangerous Game,” there’s good reason. Director Jean-Baptiste Léonetti and scenarist Stephen Susco (“Red,” “The Grudge”) have dusted off the old Richard Connell story with modest updates and a David and Goliath showdown. And because this is a primal predicament, it still mostly works ‒ until Susco returns to civilization for one false ending too many.
Even so, I remain a sucker for survival-of-the-fittest thrillers, and this one benefits from some spectacularly rugged terrain and better-than-average performances by Douglas and Irvine, who appears to have done most of his own stunts. By comparison, Douglas looks frail and wizened from his recent health issues. So it strains credulity to believe that he could go mano a mano with a man half his age in these furnace-like conditions. But that’s OK: Douglas makes up in sarcasm and animal cunning what he lacks in physical prowess.
BEYOND THE REACH ✮✮ With Jeremy Irvine, Michael Douglas, Ronny Cox, Hanna Mangan Lawrence. Directed by Jean-Baptiste Léonetti; scripted by Stephen Susco from Robb White novel. 92 min. Rated R (for language, violence)