Michael Douglas in Beyond the Reach
In new thriller Beyond the Reach, Hollywood icon Michael Douglas (Wall Street, Falling Down) is back to crazy badass mode as Madec, a rich, ruthless businessman and avid game hunter. Searching for a new trophy to add to his collection, he hires young tracker Ben, played by Jeremy Irvine (The Railway Man, War Horse) as his guide through the Reach, a vast and hostile basin in the Mojave Desert. When the hunt goes tragically wrong and an innocent man is accidentally killed, Ben finds himself the target of Madec's fiendish and desperate cover-up. Using only his survival skills and knowledge of the Reach, Ben is forced to fight for his survival in the hopes of escaping and bringing Madec to justice.
Michael Douglas remains one of my all-time favourite Hollywood actors. Throughout his highly charged and varied performances across personal favourites like Black Rain, Falling Down and The Game, he brings a great deal of depth, complexity and likability, even to his villainous characters. Fortunately here he earns the opportunity to ham it up somewhat but in a way that fits the role well, even channelling elements of Gordon Gekko and Nick Conklin into playing a corporate predator whose only instinct is to survive.
Within the small cast, Jeremy Irvine is also very impressive and plays his vulnerable role extremely well, also showing excellent physicality through many of the physical action scenes set in the unforgiving desert climate.
Interestingly, the film is based on the 1972 novel Deathwatch by Robb White, but serves as more of an inspiration due to a number of alterations, especially towards the end. This may have been perceived as necessary to inject more thrills into the proceedings, but purists or fans of the book may be turned off. However, it's a fairly subjective point.
Tampering with this source material, however, may still prove to be the film's greatest mistake as, what starts well with an interesting premise and strong performances, mutates from being a suitably low-key thriller into somewhat ridiulous. While still entertaining, though tonally very different, the script makes Madec descend too far into psycho mode. So while it's always fun to see Douglas deliver this type of character, these choices miss the mark and ultimately let down a much stronger first half.
On the DVD release, special features include a short "making of" featurette, basically an EPK, which sheds some interesting light on the production, and the trailer. While undoubtedly flawed, Beyond the Reach still makes for an entertaining ride, particularly for fans of Douglas' work and the opportunity to witness another wild card in his extensive repertoire.
Beyond the Reach is out now on DVD from Chelsea Films.