Critics’ Connection: Unsullied

Unsullied stillWhen car trouble strands track star Reagan Farrow in the Florida boondocks, she accepts an offer of help from a pair of charming strangers only to find herself trapped in a brutal backwoods nightmare. Held captive in an isolated cabin, Reagan manages to escape and take refuge in the forest. Relentlessly pursued by the savage sociopaths who kidnapped her, Reagan will need all of her inner strength and resourcefulness in order to survive. Source: Rotten Tomatoes.  Photo Source:  The Source.

Starring: Murray Gray (Reagan Farrow), Rusty Joiner (Noah Evans), James Gaudioso (Mason Hicks), Erin Boyes (Zoe Case), Nicole Paris Williams (Kim Farrow). Director: Simeon Rice; Sscreenplay: John Nodilo.  Rating:  R; Runtime:  93 mins.

What the critics are saying about Unsullied:

The Hollywood Reporter:  The Bottom Line…A solid B-movie effort.  This B-movie, reminiscent of ’70s era grindhouse fare, is a reasonably proficient and professional debut that fulfills its modest aspirations.  Murray Gray plays comely track star Reagan, who makes the mistake of having car trouble while driving through the swampy Florida boondocks. Not long after, a pair of friendly strangers (Rusty Joiner, James Gaudioso) volunteer to give her a ride. After being rendered unconscious with chloroform, she wakes up to find herself tied up in a shack with another female victim. But Reagan proves far more resourceful than her hapless fellow sufferer, quickly managing to make an escape and outrunning the psychotic duo’s chasing Dobermans thanks to her spectacular athletic skills. The rest of the film is essentially a long cat-and-mouse game in which the intrepid heroine overcomes a series of obstacles, including a perilous leap off “Hangman’s Cliff” into the waters below.  It’s all strictly formulaic stuff, including the brutally violent climactic sequence in which Reagan has the opportunity to take revenge on her chief tormentor. But none of that is likely to matter to the film’s target audience who may simply be jazzed at watching a film directed by one of their past gridiron heroes. See full review at The Hollywood Reporter.

The L. A. Times:  Unsullied screenwriter John Nodilo ameliorates an otherwise generic cat-and-mouse thriller with unusually thoughtful expositions. Reagan is grieving the loss of the older sister, Kim and Flashbacks to Kim’s motivating words help Reagan push through her desperate hours.  Her abductors, Noah and Mason, prove equally complex. These Southerners aren’t your stereotypical rednecks. Having struck it rich as wolves of Wall Street, these American psychos are beloved patrons and generous tippers in the desolate town they regularly visit on “hunting” trips. Although Noah and Mason seem indiscriminate when it comes to picking their female prey, the fact that Reagan is black and hounded by their dogs conjures the South’s troubled legacy.

It’s almost inconceivable that this effective, nerve-racking thriller is the first feature from former NFL defensive end Simeon Rice. It requires the usual suspension of disbelief, and pacing problems are a sign of Rice’s directorial inexperience. But the tension he creates is unrelenting.  See full review at L. A. Times.

The New York Times:  Unsullied? Unrelenting is more like it. This nasty low-budget thriller, the first feature directed by the former NFL defensive end Simeon Rice, tells a story rife with implausibilities. But it does have a few redeeming aspects, including a hardy newcomer, the actress Murray Gray, as Reagan, a competitive runner with the misfortune of having her car break down in a remote Florida backwater. It’s Reagan’s further bad luck to encounter two wealthy, hunky, smooth-talking brothers with a big estate and a penchant for kidnapping and rape.  The movie flirts with 1970s exploitation revenge pictures, complete with a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle Super Sport, but comes up short on the attendant payoffs. The actors, try to infuse their characters with depth, and the cinematographer, Scott Winig, lends the proceedings a professional gloss, especially in nighttime scenes. But their efforts cannot lift the story beyond its thin, lurid premise.  See full review at The New York Times.

Cut Print Film:  NFL player Simeon Rice makes his feature directorial debut with Unsullied. It’s not often that someone goes from football player to filmmaker, so the first question one might wonder is: How does Rice do? Surprisingly well.  Rice has a firm enough grasp on framing and evoking mode to suggest he might have a promising career making movies if he keeps at it.

One thing is clear: he certainly likes watching movies. Unsullied is a sleazy B-movie that firmly remains true to its B-movie roots, while also referencing several other films at once. There’s a little bit of the TV adaptation of Dean Koontz’s Intensity in here, mixed with the backwoods hell of Deliverance, crossed with the slick Michael Bay-produced remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the lurid, exploitative-ness of I Spit on Your Grave tossed in for good measure.

What hurts Unsullied most though is that the film is just far too derivative for its own good. While Unsullied moves at a clipped pace, too much of the film feels like a greatest hits compilation, with Rice and co-writer John Nodilo cherry picking scenes from other, similar films.  Unsullied doesn’t stumble nearly as much as other films from first time directors with first time stars might, and is quick and simple enough that you’ll probably be able to get a few cheap thrills out of it if you’re looking for deliberately B-movie entertainment.  See full review at Cut Print Film.

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