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Unsullied is the best film yet directed by a former NFL star football player.
Of course, that’s not exactly setting the bar high since, as far as I know, no other professional football players have gone on to direct feature films. Still, this B-movie, reminiscent of ‘70s era grindhouse fare, is a reasonably proficient and professional debut that fulfills its modest aspirations. Shot in the woodsy environs of Tampa, where its director/co-screenwriter Simeon Rice enjoyed his gridiron success, the film would be best appreciated in a rural drive-in.
Making her feature debut, 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 some initial hesitation, she accepts their offer, having apparently not seen enough exploitation movies.
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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. She’s relentlessly pursued by the leering villains, with one of them declaring after a particularly close call that “Papa’s gonna bring home dinner!”
A seemingly inconsequential series of flashbacks depicting happier times with her father and sister eventually proves purposeful late in the film when Reagan discovers that she has a particularly close tie with her attackers.
Lacking any previous significant acting experience, Gray acquits herself admirably in her starring role which largely consists of her character speedily running and jumping over obstacles to escape her pursuers. Joiner, who misses few opportunities to display his incredibly well-toned torso, makes for a charismatic villain, particularly in a scene in which he torments an addled middle-aged woman who’s become an unwitting accomplice.
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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.
Production: Dreamline Pictures
Cast: Murray Gray, Rusty Joiner, James Gaudioso, Erin Boyes, Cindy Karr, Nicole Paris Williams
Director: Simeon Rice
Screenwriters: Simeon Rice, John Nodilo
Producers: Michelle Gracie, Ghana Cooper, John Hermann, John Nodilo, Simeon Rice, Joseph Restaino
Director of photography: Scott Winig
Production designer: Jil Meyers
Editor: Andrew Cohen
Composer: Jason Solowsky
Casting: Michelle Gracie
Rated R, 93 min.
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