Produced by Tarô Maki,
Ryuhei Kitamura, Ko Mori
Screenplay by Joey O’Bryan
Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura
Starring Kelly Connaire, Stephanie Pearson,
Rod Hernandez-Farella, Anthony Kirlew,
Alexa Yeames, Jason Tobias
Long road trips can be pretty boring; even when you have a group of six to get to know along the way. When that trip becomes a life or death struggle in the middle of nowhere you get more than you bargained for.
And sometimes less.
Downrange was directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, most noted for Midnight Meat Train, a film adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story. He’s also done many manga-based live action adaptations for the Japanese market.
Working with Joey O’Bryan on the story and from O’Bryan’s script, Kitamura tells the story of six people carpooling through the California countryside when their SUV has a blowout.
It is eventually discovered that the tire was shot and two characters are sacrificed quickly to show the rest that there is a serious sniper threat and that they are all targets. The main problem I had with this setup was that the first characters are shot with no gun sound alerting the others and even though there is a significant amount of gore, the clueless others nearly stumble into it before noticing something is wrong.
This movie has a lot going for it. The camera work is very smooth. The editing is well done. And even the acting is, for the most part, fairly believable. At one point I was reminded of the five archetypes from Cabin in the Woods (Whore, Athlete, Scholar, Fool, and Virgin) and how they are all represented in the six main characters; with six you get an extra Fool.
From this I was able to accurately plot out the film and guess who the last survivor would be.
This gets to the one saving grace of the film. Once the movie gets far enough along some external elements trigger action that has been missing from most of the film. This last bit of intense activity; including a somewhat hokey yet satisfying ending will make the film worth it to many who watch.
Somebody out there will like Downrange, but it isn’t really me.
I found this to be a tedious film with unbelievably silly gore uncharacteristic to the subject matter. There are films like Meatball Machine Kodoku or Robogeisha, where over-the-top gore works. But with a film centered in a realistic portrayal of a suspenseful life or death situation, this is out of place and distracting.
A film like Blue Ruin has a much better portrayal of gun wounds, even a sniper head shot, that adds to the drama and suspense. Downrange would have done better to emulate the effects of that film. For me the dragging of the first three-quarters of the film and the out-of-place over-the-top gore effects damage this film too much.
Downrange will be available exclusively on Shudder starting April 26, 2018
It will also screen at New York’s Nitehawk Cinema (with director Ryuhei Kitamura in attendance) beginning on Friday, April 27th.