Main cast: James Marsden (Rowan), Thomas Jane (Beckett), Piper Perabo (Michelle), Michaela McManus (Kaley), Scott Glenn (Sully), and Billy Bob Thornton (Douglas)
Director: David Hackl
Now, looking at the cast list, I can only wonder what kind of drugs or blackmail material did the people behind the movie had to convince the rather… well, not-so-D-list folks to be involved in this SyFy-quality snooze of a film. On paper, it probably sounds great: two good-looking rugged man, all glowering and shiny-sweaty as they aim guns at various things and go bang-bang-bang in nature. That will draw the NRA types to the film, while for the left side of the demographics, there is a message of how you will die a most gruesome death if you log or kill things illegally. Everyone wins Into the Grizzly Maze… or so it seems on paper. Off paper, it’s a different story.
First, the story. Rowan finally comes back to his Alaskan hometown after spending seven years or so in jail for murder. Oh, don’t worry, he didn’t mean to kill that bloke, it was… just unfortunate, let’s just say. He finds that his brother Beckett is now the deputy sheriff. The reunion is initially awkward, but eventually those two come to some kind of agreement to give one another some space. The next morning, however, both brothers take off separately into the part of the heavy woods called the Grizzly Maze – a region apparently so dense and confusing that even grizzly bears couldn’t find their way out, snort.
Beckett wants to locate his wife, the conservationist Michelle who also happens to be deaf. Tagging along is the medic Kaley, who has a history with Rowan. Rowan, on his own, is searching for his missing friend, and he eventually comes across Michelle who is being attacked by a huge grizzly bear. It turns out that this grizzly bear is responsible for a series of brutal killings – mostly illegal loggers and hunters – and he’s now broadening his horizons to include everyone else in its killing list. Naturally, our heroes and their respective squeezes are tagged for kill, and this grizzly bear is apparently bigger and smarter than any of its kind. It can sneak up on people quietly, and in the grand tradition of big scary animals in such movies, damned near impossible to kill. Also in the woods is Douglas, a hunter who is positively gleeful at the idea of killing this grizzly – he’s clearly meant to be a foil to Rowan, who is all stoic yet gun-crazy in an “Ooh, I kill animals like a boss, but I do it with a scowl because I’m too manly to find pleasure in such act!” way.
Mind you, there is no decent explanation given for the existence of the grizzly bear. It just happens to be the biggest, baddest, hardest to kill, smartest, whatever-est… it just is. Perhaps I’m to view it as some kind of allegory for the horrible things that would befall mankind if the balance of the ecosystem is out of whack, but the movie takes the most absurd and heavy-handed approach to do this. Not to mention, it’s hard to go all “Kill the humans for Mother Nature!” for the bear when it starts killing off people who have nothing to do with logging or hunting. I think the script writers are just confused.
Into the Grizzly Maze is so clichéd that it often seems like a parody of other movies revolving around wild animals in revolt. Of course guns run out of bullet just when one needs to make that kill. Naturally, those who seem to be dead turn out to be still alive, showing up at the right moment to shoot the grizzly just when the good guy runs out of bullet. The bear just won’t die even if one pumps sixty gallons of lead into it and can still show up at inopportune moments, often attacking from the back. The characters are all stereotypes – Rowan is the noble loner who feels that he can never measure up to expectations, Beckett is the surly and more responsible older brother who actually cares for Rowan underneath his gruff exterior, and the big boss turns out to be evil because he is in cahoots with the evil loggers and hunters in the neighborhood.
But the worst thing about the whole thing is how the two female characters serve as nothing but damsels in distress. Michelle is deaf, so that makes her unable to scream for help when the grizzly breathes all over her. Isn’t that great? It gets better. She’s a conservationist who, apparently, failed at being a Girl Guide because she can’t take two steps in the woods without tripping, stumbling, activating traps, and falling into holes. Kaley is the same, so we have double the damsel in perpetual distress here. Grizzly the Wonder Bear here loves to target the women for some reason, so expect Kaley or Michelle to be the one who is always dragged out, threatened, or chased by that thing when they are not flailing and getting injured so that the brave strong men would have to rescue them. Even at the denouement, when everyone is running for their lives from Grizzly the Undying, guess who has to somehow get separated from the others. Naturally, that dumb bear finds that dumber broad first. From the moment these women step foot in the woods all the way to the bitter end, they need rescuing from all kinds of nonsense. This movie would probably be only third its length if the boys go bear-killing on their own, without these useless women tagging along and being a liability. It’s Michelle’s fault that Douglas, the coolest guy on the show, gets killed so she’s such a useless waste of flesh.
Painfully predictable and packed with too many interminable and boring “running away from grizzly” scenes, Into the Grizzly Maze only demonstrates why women should never be allowed to go camping with the big boys. Hmm, I wonder if the MRA folks funded this movie. Then again, if that is the case, I’d have expected the guys here to be more competent with big guns. Maybe the simplest explanation is the correct one: the movie is just woefully absurd and un-entertaining, full stop.