Gordon Gekko in the desert Southwest. There’s really no other way to describe this sparse but ultimately rather silly B-movie thriller. Michael Douglas rolls into town in a monstrous Mercedes-Benz SUV equipped with a stove, a wet bar, and an espresso maker. It’s the only one in the U.S. and it cost a half-million bucks, brags his financier John Madec. The locals are more impressed with the smaller denominations of cash Madec hands out as bribes. He’s here in Navajo country, without a permit, to shoot a bighorn sheep. This arrogant trophy hunter also totes an Austrian rifle worth more than the mobile home and pickup truck of his orphaned young guide, Ben (Jeremy Irvine, the farmboy turned soldier in War Horse). Yet class resentment isn’t really explored in Beyond the Reach.
Madec is the flashy, enjoyably evil role here, and producer Douglas certainly relishes the part, wearing yellow ’70s aviator shades and barking Mandarin business instructions into his sat-phone. (Madec is in the process of outsourcing . . . ahem, I mean selling a company to China for $120 million.) There are no cracks in his confident, leathery facade—a lean 70-year-old cancer survivor, Douglas now strikingly resembles his father Kirk—until a hunting mishap turns client against guide.
It’s not a fair contest: Douglas can act, while Irvine just furrows his brow in consternation. (Special-effects makeup soon has Ben blistered and red while he’s pursued barefoot and shirtless through the Mojave.) Moreover, despite the Gekko shadings, this is not an Oliver Stone-level script. Once the cat-and-mouse stuff begins, Madec doesn’t have anything interesting or funny to say in this dire situation. All Douglas can do is shout at the kid to stop hiding—so he can follow him some more. This is one of those movies where the villain won’t simply shoot the good guy because the plot demands still more delay. (Fun fact: Andy Griffith played the malign hunter in the 1974 television adaptation of Robb White’s 1972 YA novel Deathwatch, itself essentially a Four Corners rehash of The Most Dangerous Game.)
And it gets worse. French director Jean-Baptiste Leonetti keeps interrupting what ought to be a taut two-hander with flabby flashbacks. (Ben has a girlfriend, yawn, away in college.) The two-part surprise ending doubles down on stupidity to such an extent that even Douglas-Gekko-Madec seems incredulous. Like him, we’d rather be doing deals in China.
BEYOND THE REACH Opens Fri., April 17 at Sundance Cinemas. Rated R. 95 minutes.