River Wild REVIEW – A Thrilling Ride

This is why we don't venture into nature.

River Wild
River Wild

If the title sounds familiar, that’s because this is a remake of the film The River Wild, which starred Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon. The reception to the film was divisive, but I think it’s entertaining enough and gets the job done. I don’t think this film does a better job than the original, however, it does have some charms of its own. The important thing to note here is that River Wild doesn’t merely copy its predecessor. There’s a whole new set of characters, and while the river is still a key part of the movie – with a title like that it has to be – the film also finds other ways to build tension.

The movie starts with Joey (Leighton Meester) joining her brother Gray (Taran Killam) for a white water rafting trip. Joey’s boyfriend wants them to find a place together when she gets back, and Joey just isn’t sure if this is what she wants. She’s hoping the trip will give her some much needed clarity, as well as the opportunity to spend time with her brother. To her dismay, Gray has also invited their childhood friend Trevor (Adam Brody) on the trip. Trevor did four years in jail and is out on probation, and even though he’s cordial with Joey, there’s something a little off about him. Along for the ride are two tourists, best friends looking to have some fun together on this trip.

And things are fun initially, until one of the tourists falls down and hits her head. It’s a medical emergency, and they are far away from everything, so the gang need to take risks, like going down the river when it’s still dark in order to save time. I didn’t enjoy the night scenes in the film as much. It’s difficult to see what’s going on, and the treachery of the river feels less daunting when we can’t really see how dangerous it is.

When the tourist tells Joey that Trevor is the reason for her fall, the tension ramps up, as it’s hard to discern if it was an honest mistake, or if Trevor did really mean to harm her. While Joey’s on the fence about this, Gray is adamant that he wouldn’t do something like that. But distrust is in the air, and this leads Trevor down the path of costly mistakes. To outrun his mistakes, Trevor is forcing the group to go down the Beast, this extremely dangerous drop that even professional guides don’t emerge unscathed from.

Brody is decent as the film’s desperate antagonist, and looks sketchy from the get-go, so we aren’t entirely surprised by his shift. Though at times it’s hard to believe he’s childhood friends with Gray and Joey, considering how he has no qualms hurting them. This helps with the tension though, as with Trevor’s presence exists the threat of danger. Bacon’s antagonist was more subtle, and had more of a nice guy facade before he showed his true face. Like I said, River Wild doesn’t do a copy/paste, which is to its credit.

If you’re into the picturesque scenery that was present in the first movie, then you’ll be disappointed here. River Wild is shot like a thriller from the get-go, and we’re thrown into the action quite early on. The character arcs don’t go as deep in this one as well, as Joey is the only character that has some semblance of development, but in the most superficial of ways.

River Wild is a decent thriller, and should fit the bill if you just want to be entertained for 90 or so minutes.

Review screener provided.

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River Wild
River Wild may be a remake of sorts, but it's still very much its own film, with its own charms.