Various phenomena have been observed when a bounded acoustic beam is incident from a liquid onto the surface of a solid at or near the Rayleigh angle. These phenomena include: a shift of the reflected beam from the position predicted by geometrical acoustics, a null or minimum of intensity within the reflected beam, a 180° phase reversal of the field on either side of the null, a weak trailing field on only one side of the reflected beam and a frequency of least reflection when the solid is lossy. By carefully examining the reflection coefficient for angles in the vicinity of the Rayleight angle, and by taking into account the angular spectrum of plane waves that comprise a bounded beam, a model of the reflection process is developed that explains all of the observed phenomena. This model shows that the various critical-reflection effects result from the interference between a geometrically reflected field and the field of a leaky Rayleigh wave, which is excited by the incident beam. Moreover, this model resolves the conflict between various explanations made for these phenomena in the past; in particular, it is found that Schoch's classical description of a laterally displaced reflected beam is valid only for beams having a large width.