Overview: Six people are tormented on a deserted road by a hidden gunman. Genco, Inc.; 2017; Not Rated; 90 minutes.
Blood: Ryûhei Kitamura has a penchant for gore, most notably for his take on Clive Barker’s short story Midnight Meat Train starring Bradley Cooper. This seems to be where his strengths begin and end in Downrange, the kind of movie you end up talking through with your friends and saying, “Nah, it’s okay, don’t pause it.” when you get up to use the bathroom.
There is no set-up here. This is bare-bones storytelling in the middle of nowhere with one location and a small cast. That means it’s up to them to carry the film with strong writing and even stronger performances. Neither is to be found in Downrange. Here are six strangers in an SUV, headed god-knows-where on a carpooling trip through a veritable wasteland. The tire blow-out is immediate, but it takes forever for the three men to all agree they have no idea what they’re doing, mechanically and socially. By the time the bullet rolls out of the expended tire, the first victim has already been murdered by an unknown unseen assailant with a sniper rifle.
Heart: There are some throw-away moments suggesting a deeper connection between some of the players. Sarah and Ethan are a barely believable couple, Keren is alluring for one second, and Jodi thinks Jeff likes her even though she thought his name was Josh. Jodi too is the only one of the group who has an appointment to keep, surprising her sister for her 16th birthday. The rest just happen to be together on this journey from hell.
Otherwise, every character remains a stranger, never develops at all unless it’s convenient for the stillborn plot (re: I’m an army brat and know how guns work) and in order to find any enjoyment in the film the audiences almost has to cheer and hope for their individual deaths. There’s nothing else to hang onto, and by the time heartfelt moments occur in Downrange, they’re as completely laughable as any of the brief conflicts that occur. The strangest of these is Eric’s separation from the group, left and forgotten behind a tree stump just begging to be informed of “the plan” for most of his time onscreen.
Thankfully, there’s some good ol’ fashioned gore happening here. If you want brains flying, eyes popping and heads rolling, you’ll be served some of that with practical effects. Not much else is there to fill your appetite. You won’t come to care about any of the characters, you won’t learn about the killer, and you’ll cringe through most of the dialogue.
Overall: Downrange has a tired premise with performers too weak to carry it, handing you gore as a consolation prize.