Starring: James Marsden, Thomas Jane, Billy Bob Thornton, Scott Glenn, and Piper Perabo
Directed by: Daniel hackl
Running time: 94 Minutes
Year of release: 2015
This film might have more appropriately titled “Claws” as it is basically “Jaws” with a grizzly bear playing the part of the shark. Of course there actually WAS a film called “Grizzly” back in 1976 which was sometimes known as Claws. That was the Golden Age of animal attack movies. Films like Grizzly, Prophecy, Orca, Manitou, and Day of the Animals all sought to cash in on the popularity of Jaws.
Into the Grizzly Maze (originally entitled Red Machine, then changed to Endangered and later to Into the Grizzly Maze) is a throwback to those films of the 70s although with a surprisingly robust cast. For a film that checks in with a budget of a mere ten million you wonder how they afforded the combined talents of James Marsden, Thomas Jane, Billy Bob Thornton, Scott Glenn, and Piper Perabo. The film was released on VOD before getting a very limited theatrical release and now arriving on DVD.
In a small Alaskan town a large and intelligent grizzly is wreaking havoc. After several people are killed by the bear, the sheriff (Glenn) orders his deputy Beckett (Jane) to locate the bear. Beckett, a former hunter, has now become protective of the local bears, tagging and tracking them and making sure poachers are dealt with severely. While he wants to try and disable the bear with tranquilizers and relocate it, he has to contend with a local hunter, Douglas (Thornton), who is convinced the bear is a rogue and is intent on killing it.
Beckett also has to deal with his estranged, ex-con brother Rowan (Marsden) who has returned to town after many years in search of a friend who has gone missing in a section of the forest known as the Grizzly Maze. Also thrown into the mix is Beckett’s deaf wife Michelle, a conservationist who is in the woods taking wildlife photos.
If you remember those 70s films I mentioned you will no doubt remember that most of them were pretty bad and Into the Grizzly Maze certainly lives up to that standard. While it’s fun to watch all of these talented actors interact with each other they are trapped in a film that is just plain silly and downright clumsy. The Grizzly bear, while certainly fearsome, isn’t a 25 foot great shark that can swim at 40 mph and disappear beneath the water. This bear spends most of its time lumbering about and yet these guys, who have grown up hunting since they were kids, and who have hunted bears, can’t hit the broad side of the barn, even when armed with high-powered rifles with scopes.
But if just one of these jokers could shoot straight the film would have been over in the first half hour because the plot is so thin. There is a continual loop of the hunters encountering the bear and either running off or causing the bear to go running off before they encounter it again 15 minutes later. It culminates in an ending so silly that even the SyFy channel would call foul.