'Beyond the Reach' plot stretches beyond the pale

Preposterous narrative places 'Beyond the Reach' beyond the pale

"Beyond the Reach" is a grueling, unsatisfying thriller that fails the logic test in spectacular ways. The preposterous narrative might not have seemed quite as egregious had director Jean-Baptiste Léonetti wrung more tension from the loaded scenario or simply moved the mayhem along at a brisker clip.

Star and producer Michael Douglas plays a kind of latter-day Gordon Gekko but with far looser screws. He gleefully chews the dazzlingly shot scenery as John Madec, a sadistic fat cat and trophy hunter who hires upright tracker Ben (Jeremy Irvine) to guide him through an unforgiving stretch of the Mojave Desert to bag a bighorn sheep.

When Madec mistakes an old desert dweller for his four-legged prey and shoots him dead, the hunter attempts to buy Ben's silence. (Madec fears any leaked news of the mishap could scuttle his pending business deal with Chinese investors.) For reasons that remain fuzzy, Madec decides to kill Ben anyway, forcing the young man to strip and race off into the lethal sun to, Madec hopes, die of heatstroke.

The rest is a cat-and-mouse chase as the near-naked and, not for nothing, super-fit Ben struggles to survive the elements (good blister makeup!) and elude the psychotic Madec. Meanwhile, Madec tries to run over Ben with his $500,000 Mercedes six-wheeler and blow him up with dynamite.

In an apparent effort to keep things lean and mean, writer Stephen Susco (the "Grudge" movies), adapting from Robb White's 1962 novel "Deathwatch," jettisons the deeper character and story development the film so desperately needs.

"Beyond the Reach."

MPAA rating: R for violence.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. Playing: ArcLight Hollywood.

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