When the most likely hero of the lot - the muscle-bound Jeff (Jason Tobias) - ends up with an exit wound the size of a grapefruit in the back of his head the group quickly realise they are the victims of a sniper who has nested somewhere out in the arid, barren landscape. Very quickly they must get their collective shit together and work out how to escape.
Reminiscent of Doug Liman’s similarly themed 2017 thriller THE WALL, DOWNRANGE falls into the same minimalist thriller sub-genre as James Wan’s SAW and Rodrigo Cortez’s BURIED in that it takes the most bare-bones elements required to make a thriller and winds them as tight as possible .
Also serving as co-writer, Director Kitamura has conjured a scenario ripe for the exploiting of tension; take 6 strangers, trap them in the open air on a hot summers day, seperate them physically by mere meters and pin them in place under threat of death. Seven actors and a busted car, that’s it.
The film’s biggest flaw, unfortunately, is the element its minimalist set-up requires most in order to succeed and that is the performances which are uniformly awful.
There’s an awkwardness to just about every actor in DOWNRANGE. The desperation and frustration of some or the tough-gal personas are all so staggeringly self-aware that they are, at times, hard to watch. Rod Hernandez as Todd, in particular, can’t convince as nice-guy, new-husband or desperate victim. Stephanie Pearson goes from sweet twenty-somethinger to battle-leader and, while she looks like she’s going for Michelle-Rodriguez-toughness she looks, instead, like prom-queen who has seen one of the Fast And The Furious films once and thinks that’s how it’s done.
Regardless of its flaws in casting and performance, credit must go to Kitamura who makes the most of a genuinely impressive set-up. For a film that hinges on eliminating its characters ability to move a mere three feet DOWNRANGE moves at an impressive pace. The films first half, while exploring potential scenarios and eliminating others is surprisingly well measured and the latter half, once plans are set in motion and an understanding of the threat is realised, is a gore-filled treat for those that are looking for it.
Kitamura handles his own material well and there really is nothing wrong with his scenario or his execution (a few characters would have gone down nicely, mind you, instead of the simple cannon-fodder we got) but a couple more casting sessions to find a actors capable of doing justice to the script would have been nice.
Not likely to scale the same heights as MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN or NO ONE LIVES in terms of cult-value, DOWNRANGE isn’t a complete disaster but more of a near-miss.