YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME.
This is the last note I jotted down while watching DOWNRANGE at the Chattanooga Film Festival. We were well over an hour into a strange, confusing, and at times, frustrating cinematic experience. Where were they going? Where did they come from? How is it that they don’t know each other? And what the hell is the shooter doing? These and so many more questions arise and are left unanswered.
The idea of DOWNRANGE is very promising. You have a highly trained sniper who has pinned down an unfortunate group of friends on a long and desolate highway. Even more promising is the absolutely brilliant trailer that was cut for the film. It has gore, it has explosions, and it is gorgeous. Sadly, the actual film didn’t come together as succinctly as the trailer.
Director Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train) is no slouch behind the camera. Whether it be strange vampiric creatures living in the subway or a group of local thugs messing with the wrong guy, Kitamura has a way of creating excitement on screen. I found DOWNRANGE to be nearly devoid of any excitement.
Easily the biggest complaint is how absolutely nothing feels genuine. Stiff dialogue from characters that elicit zero emotional connection, constantly evolving ballistics, a possible spirit animal, and the aforementioned questions that aren’t even remotely addressed. I realize that a large portion of audiences might not realize that a suppressor does not affect velocity, but most are going to notice how the impact of one shot is inexplicably different from the next. They’re probably also going to ask themselves how one of our characters is able to decipher so much about our shooter with so little information.
Despite story issues, there are some undeniably gorgeous shots. MH’s own Luke Rodriguez and Jake Parker also really enjoyed the Special Effects. I wasn’t quite on board with several of the effect choices, but the practical work is easily the highlight of the film. We even had real fire for 99% of the film. But then there was the one last shot of egregiously CG’d fire. And that’s the theme of DOWNRANGE in a lot of ways. For everything it does right, it immediately negates that by doing something absolutely head-scratching.
Regardless of the debacle that is DOWNRANGE, I still regard Ryûhei Kitamura as a highly skilled director. Overindulgence really hindered what should have been an incredibly tense experience. There’s nothing wrong with a film leaving things unanswered, but you can’t simply go about having zero answers for ANYTHING.
Downrange [CFF Review]