Title: Reach Me

Director: John Herzfeld

Starring: Lauren Cohan, Kyra Sedgwick, Thomas Jane, Kevin Connolly, Tom Sizemore, Nelly, David O’Hara, Terry Crews, Cary Elwes, Tom Berenger, Sylvester Stallone and Danny Aiello

Incorporating well-meaning messages about the importance of truly embracing who you are while you strive to reach your full potential is often a riveting and inspirational plot element filmmakers infuse into their movies to make their stories more relatable to their intended audience. But integrating that all-important theme into a large ensemble action film that’s fueled by self-indulgent characters who often find themselves in morally corrupt situations can prove too be challenging. Writer-director John Herzfeld admirably tried to create an intense thriller that was fueled by both glitzy action sequences and diverse characters who all learned the importance of leading morally-driven lifestyles with his new film, ‘Reach Me.’ Unfortunately, the filmmaker failed to showcase the complete development of many of the characters in the action comedy-drama, leading to many of their situations feeling as void of any true improvement by the end of the story as they were in the beginning.

‘Reach Me’ focuses on a group of diverse Los Angeles residents, who are all connected through close relationships or seemingly chance encounters, as they’re struggling to get their lives back on track. They all set out to improve their situations after reading the title motivational self-help book written by a reclusive author who only reveals his name to be Teddy Raymond (Tom Berenger), but doesn’t offer any other details on his own personal life.

The story begins with an upper-middle-class woman, Colette (Kyra Sedgwick), who’s finishing her last days of her jail sentence after she burned down her house, in the hopes that her ex-husband would be inside. But after reading Reach Me, she’s determined to turn her life around by trying to launch a fashion career upon her release. The book’s message appealed to her after she saw rapper E-Ruption (Nelly) praise its message on a local morning talk show.

When Colette’s niece, Eve (Elizabeth Henstridge), an aspiring actress who’s longing to get her big break, picks her aunt up upon her release, she crashes her car as she recounts her disastrous last film role. Much to Colette’s initial concern about being involved in an accident so quickly after her sentence ended, Eve tries to rectify the fact that she inadvertently hit the car of a police officer, Wolfie (Thomas Jane). While Wolfie finds pleasure in killing and hurting criminals, including the immoral Kersey (Cary Elwes), the actor who violated Eve during her film shoot, the advice he receives from Father Paul (Danny Aiello) that he should stop using his job to fulfill his desire to commit violence begins to sink in.

Meanwhile, journalist and aspiring novelist Roger (Kevin Connolly) is pushed by his boss, the money and power-driven Gerald (Sylvester Stallone), to find out who Teddy really is. After interviewing the author’s business partner, Wilson (Terry Crews), and one of the few people who has met and been personally helped by the writer, Kate (Lauren Cohan), the journalist gets closer to uncovering Teddy’s true identity. But once he starts to know Kate and understands the writer’s desire to remain anonymous, the reporter becomes more willing to put his own career on the life to stand up for what he believes is right.

While Herzfeld has written and directed several action films over the course of his career, including ‘2 Days in the Valley,’ ’15 Minutes’ and ‘The Death and Life of Bobby Z, ‘he unfortunately failed to utilize his experience to create a truly gripping and enthrallingly modern entry in the genre. While his latest action crime thriller aimed to infuse an important and intriguing message with Teddy’s influential book on how everyone can improve their lives, no matter how dire their circumstances are, almost all of the characters ultimately proved to remain shallow and self-serving. From Wolfie refusing to truly listen to Father Paul’s advice that he should leave the LAPD, in order to lead a more pure life that’s untainted by continuous violence, to Gerald only caring about how exclusively revealing Teddy’s identity would benefit his website, Reach Me comes across as a self-indulgent exploration on how people take insightful advice and use it as an excuse to greedily improve their lives.

Although many of the seemingly upstanding characters in ‘Reach Me’ act as selfishly and morally corrupt as the ruthless gangsters ruling the neighborhoods they live in, the one truly enticing and captivating subplot is the storyline focusing on Roger’s efforts to find Teddy. From the time the seemingly innocent journalist is introduced in the beginning of the action comedy-drama, Connolly enthralling and humbly presents the character as being morally and respectably aware of how his actions will affect the people around him. While Roger initially listens to what Gerald tells him to do without question, and doesn’t defend himself his boss’s overtly negative criticism of his job performance and personality, over the course of the drama Connolly smartly matured his character to embrace supporting his own ideals.

The reporter’s relatable struggle and determination to fully stand up for his beliefs without fear of repercussion arose in part from his endearing interactions with Kate, as he asked her to convince Teddy to meet him and publicly reveal his real identity. While the romantic feelings between Roger and Kate at times seemed to be tawdrily and progressed unnaturally quickly, just for the sake of the journalist trying to achieve his short-term professional goals, their connection proved to be the most earnest and believable amongst the numerous superficial relationships presented throughout the film.

While ‘Reach Me’ featured a versatile, talented group of esteemed actors in what initially appears to be an uplifting, thought-provoking story on how people can improve their lives if they truly commit to making better decisions, Herzfeld’s latest action thriller unfortunately fails to live up to its full potential. Although many ensemble films mainly rely on utilizing underdeveloped and flashy gimmicks to capture viewers’ attention, most of the characters and the gaudy situations they find themselves in throughout the writer-director’s newest effort prove they didn’t really take anything away from Teddy’s meaningful message. With the exception of Connolly’s riveting and scene-stealing portrayal of the genuinely well-meaning Roger, who seemed to be the only person who actually understood and embraced the author’s ideas, the filmmaker’s latest project is an uninspired thriller that failed to infuse its stunts and story with any true meaning.

Reach Me Movie Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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