Say this for Ryan Philippe’s “Catch Hell.” It may be a nasty, low budget exploitative genre thriller.But it’s as timely as the latest batch of stolen celebrity cell phone photos, as pointed as every Hollywood type’s nightmares about movie making in Louisiana, which has filmmaking incentives so generous it has water-logged the geography of movie making in America.
Philippe co-wrote directed and stars in “Catch,” so it’s easy to read a lot into this performance, a low-maintenance, low wattage but still recognizable movie star reduced to making a low-budget film in Shreveport.
“I am TOTALLY regretting taking this job,” Reagan Pearce (Philippe) gripes to his agent after enduring stares the moment he gets off the plane and idiotic backslapping from the rube producer who is behind his latest cinematic shot in the dark.
“What the hell happened to my CAREER, man?”
He can’t land the lead in James Cameron’s latest and is in desperate need of a “game changer,” the agent answers. That’s why he’s in Louisiana.
So he suffers the no wi-fi “finest hotel in town,” gets up early and clambers into the van that will take him to the set. Within minutes, he realizes this van isn’t going to the set, that guys (Ian Barford, Stephen Louis Grush) who are plainly homophobic, who freely use the N-word and who don’t know “P.A.” stands for “production assistant” are not from the film. And they have violence in mind.
“I’m Diane’s husband,” the older one (Barford) growls. As violins quiver on the soundtrack, the beatings begin. The shackles come out and Reagan is locked in a shack in the middle of the swamp, with only the in-bred Junior (Grush) and gators for company. Well, Junior AND his psychotically-enraged uncle who has access to compromising cell-phone photos and messages to his wife, some distant conquest Reagan may not even remember. He is going to pay for that.
“Catch Hell” has physical torture and sexually explicit mind games. It has a star who seems resigned to his fate and willing to give up and savage bumpkins straight out of “Deliverance” ready to take out their hatred of Hollywood and Hollywood values on him.
That description gives this simple, ferociously feral thriller more depth than it deserves.
Philippe the director handles the torture scenes and the set-up well enough. But he spoils suspense, shows his hand too early and never strays from a fairly conventional, if explicit, kidnap and torture narrative. The soul searching of “Buried” is missing from the performance, the sense of paying for one’s sins is mentioned, but never felt.
That makes “Catch Hell” nothing more than the sort of exploitation film that Reagan Pearce has signed onto, in desperation, one that he and we realize will be no game changer for the movie star on screen or the one behind the camera.
(Read Roger Moore’s INTERVIEW with Ryan Phillippe).
MPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic violence, sexual violence, profanity
Cast: Ryan Philippe, Stephen Louis Grush, Ian Barford
Credits: Directed by Ryan Philippe, written by Joe Gossett, Ryan Phillippe. A Phase 4 release.
Running time: 1:38