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Case Number 17822

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The Canyon

Magnolia Pictures // 2009 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 3rd, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson's nickname in high school was "The Canyon." You don't want to know.

The Charge

Surviving is just the beginning.

Opening Statement

Two tourists in over their heads get lost in the Grand Canyon. Yeah, this is going to end well.

Facts of the Case

The Well-Meaning-But-Lethally-Naïve-Couple are Nick (Eion Bailey, Fight Club) and Lori (Yvonne Strahovski, NBC's Chuck), two newlyweds looking for an awesomely memorable honeymoon experience in the Grand Canyon. Nick has visions of awesome pack mule riding and sightseeing, though Lori is content with just hanging around the motel room and having all kinds of sex.

Nick isn't having any of it! No, he wants to get on top of a mule and ride that mother@#$% into a giant ditch. The two find themselves a tracker (Will Patton, Armageddon) who will take them into the canyon sans permit and it looks like the honeymooners are going to have their rock-gazing wishes come true…until things predictably go straight to the toilet.

The Evidence

The Canyon was not what I was expecting. That can be a good thing, but in this case it's not. The disc case trumpets a mysterious menace that's circulating around the canyon threatening our heroes. So going in, I'm prepping for a horror/slasher picture.


This misadventure is a straight-up survivor tale, methodical in its pace and heavy on the Nature-as-a-Lethal-Douchebag imagery. As a man vs. wild excursion, The Canyon is a moderate success, effectively transmitting the hopelessness that accompanies being lost in a hostile environment without the faintest clue of how to get back to civilization. The Grand Canyon is a great setting, its labyrinthine passages and oppressive heat offering some nice fodder for the protagonists' wailing and gnashing of teeth. The tension kicks in when the inevitable injuries occur, hobbling the main characters and introducing the local, ravenous wildlife as the newest threat.

While that's all well and good, the slow progression of the story hampers the film in its own way. It takes a while for danger to hit Nick and Lori—about 40 minutes, by my count—and once it's clear this is the direction the film is taking (not the enigmatic slasher route), the momentum inexplicably slows even more. Now it's all about watching two people completely out of their element find new and exciting ways to f—-- themselves over.

And that turned out to be the most interesting aspect of The Canyon. At its heart, this is a cautionary tale about not overstepping your abilities. Nick and Lori have no business being down in the canyon. To her credit, Lori sensed this, but what else can she do to dissuade her dumbass husband? She already offered him a banquet of carnal delights. The resulting tragedy serves as a warning to wannabe daredevils: don't bother, or you'll end up watching your wife saw off your ankle.

The DVD: a gorgeous 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a 5.1 surround mix front deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, behind-the-scenes montage, and a casting session.

Closing Statement

As a survivor sage, The Canyon works, but its sluggish pace may become an endurance test.

The Verdict

Not Guilty, barely.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 80
Acting: 80
Story: 75
Judgment: 78

Perp Profile

Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Spanish
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Featurettes
• Casting Session


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