A tire blowout. Who hasn’t been there? With this one simple act, a group of carpooling strangers ends up stranded, and when it is revealed in stylish fashion that it was a sniper’s bullet that took out the tire, then the bottle is created that the rest of this film will build its ship in.
Downrange starts off smart and slick as director Ryûhei Kitamura cycles through the characters (a cast of unknowns) laying the foundation that the next 90 minutes will rest upon. After the initial barrage of bullets and panic as the sniper starts turning these characters into nothing more than hunks of meat on the side of the road, however, things really slow down, and the film is held together only by its intermittent, yet outstanding set-pieces.
I never got the impression that these twenty-somethings had much of a fighting chance. The helplessness was laid on thick. Some of the knowledge the army brat character had was so advanced that it was hard to explain it away as just being mere army brat knowledge, and even with that she never felt like an effective threat to the sniper or a potential salvation for the group. The acting of all involved really undercut the tension for me. This, the fact that there was no inner conflict among the characters, and a few other logical flaws kept me from ever getting totally on board. The fact that these characters were strangers was also never really used to full effect. Fortunately, the graphic gore is worth the price of admission!
The style of Downrange is really worth praising, and that’s not surprising coming from Ryûhei Kitamura who directed such features as Versus and Midnight Meat Train. I already mentioned the gore, which flows deliciously. There are also moments where animals come into play. A wolf who may be God or the Grim Reaper himself inspects the scene. Crows and bees descend upon the dead for an easy meal. All the while, the sniper is looking on, ready to fire off more rounds. It’s exploitation lite. I think some excessive nudity of any variety would have completely warped the tone of this film into full-blown exploitation bliss. Enough so, that the helpless singing of happy birthday would have come off as wonderful cheese instead of an audible groan.
If you’re looking to kill an evening, you could definitely do worse than Downrange. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to say, but it’s a fun and easy one to turn on and eat your popcorn to.
Downrange will be available exclusively on Shudder beginning April 26th.
Stay slime, and be rad at all times!