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The Reach (2014)

Directed by Jean-Baptiste Léonetti

2 stars

“He’s paying a thousand dollars a day” says the sheriff (Ronny Cox) of the small Mojave Desert town to Ben (Jeremy Irvine), a sad, serious tracker who’s just said goodbye to his off-to-college girlfriend.

“He” is Madoc, a wealthy, super-obnoxious businessman with a taste (shock-horror) for European SUVs and rifles. Think Gordon Gekko without the redeeming features. He’s in the middle of a deal that will result in a whole bunch of a American jobs being off-shored, and he is in the mood for a few days of illegal trophy-hunting in The Reach, a notoriously hot stretch of desert.

But when Madoc’s trigger-happiness means he bags an old man instead of a deer, he needs to get rid of the evidence, and that includes Ben. So Ben is forced to strip down to his underpants and go walkabout under the blistering sun (this apparently would constitute credible evidence that Ben has gone crazy with grief at the departure of his girlfriend, and that it would have been him that shot the old man).

So a game of cat and mouse begins. All the firepower is in Madoc’s hands (he even picks up some dynamite along the way, like an executive version of Duke Nukem), while Ben has to rely on his superior knowledge of the desert, plus an old map that he finds in a cave (don’t ask).

This would be a pretty average thriller if it wasn’t for the gleeful manner in which Michael Douglas’ character switches from hunting deer to chasing human. It’s as if he’s suddenly realised what he’s been missing. The film is not very suspenseful, but movies like this can often succeed by letting you predict what’s going to happen, as much as by surprising you with a twist. So we know that the enormous revolver that is Ben’s unlikely gift to his departing girlfriend will make a reappearance; and that the box of dynamite Madoc finds won’t get through the film unexploded.

It’s not quite enough to rescue The Reach from humdrum-ness, but it’s a passable way of spending an hour and a half.

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