Road trips are often a great experience for a group to partake in. I have fond memories of traveling across the country with my family when I was just a young boy growing up. I would love to just listen to my burnt CDs and play my Gameboy as we went across state lines. At times tensions could get high, such as when we would argue about where to eat or when to stop and find a place to sleep, but it was never anything that took away from the total fun of the journey.
Director Ryûhei Kitamura decided to show what happens on the other side of that coin when the journey turns into a direct trip into Hell. Downrange is a film about a couple and their new carpooling friends who are enjoying a road trip together. They reach a desolate patch in the desert when their SUV tire pops. Once the tire is physically removed from the vehicle, a casing for a high-caliber rifle shell falls and hits the pavement. From then on, a bloodbath ensues as a sniper with extreme precision begins taking them out. Stranded with nothing to take shelter behind besides the vehicle itself, the group is forced to creatively, and quickly, find a way to get help and ultimately survive.
As with most movies of this nature, their cellphones do not have service to make rescue easy. Kitamura decides to complicate and add a bit of creativity though by displacing a clever trick to this – the group is able to get service if they are to stand a mere 3 feet next to the vehicle. The sniper has deadly precision however, so this proves to be just as risky as it is helpful.
The premise is simple and leaves room for an old school showdown. The film itself is very bloody, and Kitamura has a very great way of increasing the amount of dread that persists throughout. Whether that be by having a coyote approach to the scent of blood on the sand, or by having the extreme heat begin dehydrating the group – making their judgment grow gradually impaired over time. The showdown takes place over the course of a single day, but it’s certainly a day where every minute is felt to the fullest extent.
A bit of fun and suspense pops up in unexpected ways, and I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises that appear throughout the film, so I’ll just say that Ryûhei Kitamura knows how to keep the audience on the edge of their seats as the sands of time slowly pour out for our team. They grow anxious and delirious as they lose blood and sweat, and the fact that they aren’t friends from the get-go leaves room for drama to unfold on the forefront.
At the time of viewing this, I was unaware that he was the director behind the adaptation of Clive Barker’s The Midnight Meat Train, which immediately became a favorite of mine after first viewing, but the resemblance and the brutal style of each bullet penetration makes sense. I went into the film virtually blind and was intrigued by the story all the way until the credits rolled at the finale. The characters are easy to feel empathy for, the situation is believable and terrifying, and the progression is dreadful and brutal. Lastly and arguably most importantly, we never come to understand the reason behind the sniper inflicting the torment that they are, which also helps add a great level of terror.
In Conclusion: Take a simple premise of a car breaking down on the side of the road, and add some high stakes by introducing a killer with unknown motives and an unfair advantage over our protagonists, as well as a great deal of hyper realistic gore and some true suspense, and what you have is a rollercoaster ride that keeps you strapped in all the way to the gory finish.
Did I enjoy it on my first visit? Very much so.
Would I go back for seconds? I would, but not for some time. Since the movie relies on a lot of ambiguity and mystery, the fact that you will have seen the surprises and twists coming earlier then you should does take away from a repeat viewing. It would be fun to watch with a friend, or even a few years down the line when most of the details have slipped my mind. But I would not consider it an immediate review.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely. My advice is go in as blind as you can to keep the suspense and mystery as full as possible. This is one fun ride that’s well worth your viewing time and attention.
Final Rating: 3/5
'Til Next Time, Mike Cleopatra