Catch Hell is a little bit of a silly name for a movie, whereas its Asian market title Chained, perhaps makes more sense. However, it does a good job at portraying some of the hell you might face watching the movie as it draws out to its unnecessary and unfulfilling conclusion.
Catch Hell is really a one-man show and that one man is its co-writer, director, producer and star, Ryan Phillippe. Ryan plays a once big star actor, Reagon Pearce, who has recently recovered from a variety of addiction issues and is looking to give himself a restart in the film industry. He travels to a small town, Shreveport Louisiana to film a new movie with an up and coming director and immediately feels uneasy about his surroundings and readiness for the role. One morning he gets mistakenly tricked into thinking his pick-up vehicle has arrived early and gets kidnapped and taken to a small swamp hut where he is chained and subjected to physical and psychological torture by his two captors (James DuMont and Stephen Louis Grush).
The two men try and do their best to tarnish his image by gaining access to his different social media accounts and compromising info on his database and phone, while making his life misery through constant physical torture. The relationship between both captors becomes increasingly complex and Pearce needs to work against their different personalities to try and escape.
Catch Hell is an uncomfortable movie to watch. It tries to shock you with its brutality and rawness, as you experience the torture Pearce is going through and while it succeeds at times, most often you are left more unnerved by the banality of the characters and the plot than from what they are trying to shock you with in the film itself. At the start of the movie, Pearce feels uneasy about his surroundings, but you never figure out why and then once he is captured and you realise the reasons for his capture, the characteristics of his aggressors is wildly inconsistent and even Philippe’s own psychological state through it all seems wildly uneven. The leaves you to feel very little about the characters in the movie and just makes most of the interactions difficult to watch.
The script (co-written by Joe Gossett) is the main reason for everything feeling out of place. The dialogue is really poor most of the time and the personalities of the two protagonists seem incredibly clichéd, with one being the mastermind and the other being a half-wit. This makes everything feel all to predictable. Phillippe tries to do as much as possible to present a grittiness in his direction of the film, but apart from a few really dark scenes, relies too much on a first person perspective that takes away from the emotion of the film, especially when Phillippe’s own acting performance is not strong enough to move the film along. Grush and DuMont do a better job in playing the antagonists, but poor writing can only take them so far.
The cinematography (by Steve Gainer) does a good job at setting the tone in the shed scenes, but feels cheap and a little washed out in some of the brighter scenes and this also detracts from the overall mood of the film. And for a film with a relatively short running time of 98 minutes, there are still moments when the film seems to drag out. And captured with an ending which is ambiguous and underwhelming, you are left feeling a little cheated at many aspects of the film.
The score (by The Newton Brothers and Slipknot’s Sid Wilson) can at times be quite suitable to the film, with unnerving guitar chords being struck appropriately between soft atmospheric noises and is perhaps about the only thing that remains in your mind after the film has closed, apart from some of the brutality in the film.
Phillippe is no doubt a talented actor and filmmaker, but this is not the movie where you are going to see it. You too easily lose emotion or attachment to the characters in the film and are left disappointed at the end of what could’ve potentially being a decent film, had it tried to do more than just shock or gross you out.
Catch Hell is out now on DVD.
Last Updated: February 17, 2016