Downrange (2017) TIFF Review
Downrange is a 2017 thriller about a group of friends who become stranded at the side of the road after a tire blowout, though not all is as it seems.
There is a film called Babel (2006) starring Brad Pitt where one subplot involves a couple riding a bus in Morocco where some boys playing with a long range rifle take a shot for fun, accidently hitting someone inside. It’s a terrifying premise and one that Ryûhei Kitamura might have been influenced by with his new film Downrange, a gruesome, disturbing nihilistic psychological thriller that is one part raw terror and two parts sadism.
With no setup, an SUV with six college carpoolers on a deserted stretch of back country road have a blowout and are forced to pullover. The men, looking to secure their roles as caretakers, struggle to figure out how to change a tire, but when one of them realizes it was not accident, seeing a spent bullet fall from the hole, he’s quickly the next in line and gets a shot straight to the face. He’s the first to fall as the panicked young people become targets for a madman (Aion Boyd) with a bolt action sniper rifle hunkered up in a distant tree. One by one they’ve got to try and survive as the hours tick by.
Kitamura, who is well known for his brutal and bloody filmmaking, won’t disappoint fans of his work, loading Downrange with 90 minutes of splattered gore from front to back, the premise stacked with opportunities for such. This isn’t a story with reason or ambiguity and has nothing to say other than there is senseless violence in the world, and perhaps that is what Kitamura (and co-screenwriter Joey O’Bryan) are suggesting, that there is horrific randomness to our lives, though even that is probably reading too much. This is really much more an exercise in excess rather than meaning. For many, that’s all that is required.
Admittedly, it’s a scary prospect, one we’ve seen recently before in Doug Liman‘s The Wall, where two American soldiers are trapped behind a short stone wall with a lethal sniper pinning them down. While both films leave the shooter faceless and seemingly blank, at least with The Wall there are clearly-defined combatants under the pretext of war. With Downrange, there is no such attempt at defining the motivations of the shooter, aside from his obvious military background, and again, perhaps there is none needed. The chaos of sudden, unexplained horror is in many ways just as terrifying as any that isn’t.
Downrange is first and foremost a splatter film and if you’re going in looking for a more deeply-rooted psychological experience, you’re going to come up short. This is all about the misery, and it revels, as many do in the genre, in delivering as much gore as possible. We know nothing about the victims, however they are all generally well-played by the young cast, with Stephanie Pearson and Kelly Connaire getting most of the screen time, being far and away the most convincing. The problem is it has no humanity, no one to cheer for and no motivation other than to be fodder for blood-spewing carnage. It’s a shame because the potential for a real psychological thriller is all there, but with a large cast meant only to be targets, this is all we get. This leaves it mostly critic proof as fans of such will certainly find plenty to celebrate. All others beware.
Downrange premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Downrange (2017) TIFF Review
Movie description: Downrange is a 2017 thriller about a group of friends who become stranded at the side of the road after a tire blowout, though not all is as it seems.
Director(s): Ryûhei Kitamura
Actor(s): Kelly Connaire, Stephanie Pearson, Rod Hernandez
Genre: Horror, Thriller