Netflixable? Scottish “Stalking” trip turns “Eye for an Aye” in “Calibre”

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Vaughn is about to become a father. Marcus, his pal, figures he knows just the thing for “your last free weekend.”

The lads leave the city for a hunting trip in the Scottish highlands and Marcus loads his 90s Jeep Cherokee for action.

“Reckon you can take down a deer? The trick is, to put a check on your emotions and let instinct kick in.”

Vaughn (Jack Lowden of “Dunkirk”) isn’t really into it, but he goes along for “stalking,” as the locals call it. Marcus (Martin McCann of “Lost in London”) is there to ensure they have a good time in Culcurran. Which of course means a near bar-fight over local lasses.

“It’s your funeral” should scare them off. Not Marcus. Nothing like heading into the woods hungover, having made enemies of armed, woods-wise locals.

“Calibre” is one of those “Deliverance/Straw Dogs” thrillers about men softened by civilization, out to prove themselves in the wild and tested in ways they never imagined.

Because Vaughn isn’t a good shot. And somebody gets killed.

Sentient, sensitive people go to pieces when their actions, even accidental, take a life. In this story, accidents lead to escalations and the hopeless effort to hide the crime.

“Run. RUN,” for starters.

Is Marcus the one thinking clearly, or is Vaughn? Can they save each other? Should they?

“The alternatives are unthinkable.”

People who don’t talk, don’t get caught — or so the old saying goes. But carrying on as if nothing’s happened is going to be tricky. Not in villages where everybody knows everybody else’s business, outsiders’ goings and comings, not when the locals love talking about hunting and bloody rare venison is the diner’s choice.

Logan and Angus (Tony Curran, George Anton) are just trying to be friendly, just wanting to share stalking stories, hold forth about the sorry state of the local economy. But the city boys have bodies to bury. And one of them has neither the stomach nor the nerve for it.

“This isn’t going to be easy.”

“Calibre” follows the well-worn path of such tales, the decisive man more in touch with his primitive side, the smarter, more civilized one caught in this trap with him.

And trap it is, because getting out of this hole is going to be as unhurried and tricky as the locals can make it. The suspense comes with every encounter with a villager, friendly or unfriendly. Do these two soft city boys have the nerve for this? Are they cagey enough? What will trip them up?

Every question is double-edged, every suspicion underlined with menace.

Matt Palmer’s film is an engrossing but unsurprising swirl of self-preservation instincts, grief, panic and terror. It achieves pulse-pounding only once, and rarely strays from the predictable path set for it. Palmer reaches for that twist from the conventional way these narratives are handled, but gives away his sympathies too quickly, shows his hand too openly.

Style points for the striking scenery and setting. Demerits for delivering a grim anti-climax where the dramatic climax is called for.

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MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence, profanity

Cast: Jack Lowden, Martin McCann, Kate Bracken, Tony Curran

Credits: Written and directed by Matt Palmer. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:41

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