In 1972, novelist Robb White wrote the desert thriller Deathwatch, about a rich hunter named Madec who accidentally kills a human in the Mojave and decides to cover up his mistake by murdering his guide.
Two years later, it was turned into the film Savages, starring Andy Griffith in the lead role. Griffith was unexpectedly great as a big-city bigwig, but the decades since have given us Michael Douglas, the slick-haired snake-oil actor who seems to have been slithering toward this part for 40 years.
Now Douglas gets a crack at the character in Jean-Baptiste Léonetti’s remake Beyond the Reach. Today, the millionaire sniper stalks his prey in a $500,000 Mercedes SUV stocked with an espresso machine. Yet while Madec sautés asparagus in his car, his blue-collar guide Ben (Jeremy Irvine, most impressive for his six-pack) chows trail mix and rolls his eyes. Léonetti sharpens the film’s edges — this isn’t about one wealthy man, it’s about all wealthy men who think they can buy the world, and are rarely proven wrong.
Madec and Ben’s showdown becomes a battle to see which type of man is best equipped for survival: the well-funded scoundrel or the honest grunt. The film is too honest itself to always give us the answer we want. It’s also too dully on-the-nose to entertain. You know the second half is a slog when you start questioning Léonetti’s forensics. Dozens of spent bullet casings shining in the sun, and Madec still thinks he can hide his crime? The Wall Street bankers munching popcorn in the theater might nod, “Well, of course.”