Director Ryûhei Kitamura has been entertaining horror movie fans for a good few years now, and that's not going to change any time soon, if Downrange is anything to go by. It's an enjoyable, implausible, thriller with some top-notch gore moments that will impress gorehounds and fans of drawn-out tension.
Here's the premise - a group of young adults blow out a tyre during their car journey. They get out to check over the car, find out that the accident wasn't an accident, and then someone gets shot through the face. The bullets keep flying as the stranded travellers quickly realise that they are being picked off by a sniper.
I can't really say, hand on heart, that Downrange gets everything right. Not by a long shot (no pun intended, but you know I grinned when I thought about typing that out). The script, by Joey O'Bryan and Kitamura, is very slight, in terms of both plotting and characterisation, and that subsequently leaves the cast hanging out to dry.
And the cast all do decidedly okay with the little they're given to work with. I'll namecheck them here; Kelly Connaire (what a wonderful world we live in when people are named after Nicolas Cage movies), Stephanie Pearson, Rod Hernandez, Anthony Kirlew, Alexa Yeames, and Jason Tobias. Unfortunately, nobody is given enough material to make them stand out. I didn't dislike any of the individual characters onscreen, but I couldn't tell you right now who was who.
The upside of such weak characterisation is that Downrange is harder to predict, at times, than it otherwise might have been. Anyone can take a bullet at any time, there aren't even any clues about the motivation or any perceived order of the kills. It's a shame that this level of unpredictability can't last all the way through to the finale.
There are other mis-steps throughout, such as a moment with some local wildlife that doesn't feel like anything more than an extra contrivance shoehorned into a film already based on quite a contrived scenario, but Kitamura manages to keep you distracted for most of the 90-minute runtime. There are just enough potential victims, the pacing is perfect, and that predictable finale still manages to be a lot of fun.
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