After retiring from professional sports, when the fame and the daily routine have receded, a guy’s got to find something to do with his free time and piles of cash. Maybe open up that steak joint you’ve always dreamed of or perhaps start designing menswear or, if you’re Atlanta Falcons running back Jason Snelling, invent a fanny pack with speakers in it. Most likely you’ll fail — “Community A Wasteland Of Professional Athletes’ Failed Side Businesses,” reads the relevant Onion headline — but it’ll give you something to fill the hours when you find yourself in your mid-30s with nothing to do.
Former NFLer Simeon Rice, for his part, has turned his hand to low-budget exploitation filmmaking. I’m not sure if Rice is in it for the money, the art, the shot at maintaining some level of fame, or if he’s just trying to keep busy. While his debut feature, Unsullied, is by no means the work of an artist, it is, at the very least, not an embarrassment, and given the standard set by, say, Vin Baker’s fish house, that’s no small feat.
Unsullied follows Reagan (first-time actress Murray Gray) as she drives a highly unlikely 1971 Chevelle Super Sport to a track meet in the middle of nowhere. (Why is she traveling there alone and not with some kind of team? Your guess is as good as mine.) When her car breaks down she is picked up by two handsome devils who kidnap women to rape and hunt for sport. She wakes up imprisoned in an isolated cabin as another woman is being raped. She quickly escapes, and from there the chase is on.
In its best moments, which are regrettably brief and highly intermittent, Unsullied promises a mix of “Run Lola Run” and “The Most Dangerous Game,” with maybe a pinch of “Hostel Part II” thrown in. But in practice this is nowhere near as interesting as that combination might sound. For material this grim, Rice’s approach is oddly light, owing in part to the rather odd musical choices in this movie. The score never matches the horror of the situation.
Rice has a basic command of the technical aspects of filmmaking (although the sound mix is rather poor). Some of the chase sequences, in which Rice mixes in some interesting POV shots, even show glimmers of promise. And I admire Rice for refusing to sexualize the rape scenes. His plotting, however, is downright silly. There are tedious flashback sequences sprinkled throughout the movie that seem out of place until an absurd reveal in the film’s final stretch. And Rice really missed an opportunity to make the hunters truly repulsive. Instead, they are just blandly villainous, not much more intimidating than the baddies in a kid’s flick (though I do like the suggestion that they have have been hunting women for years, and no one has figured it out because they’re white, good-looking, and rich).
For his first film, Rice has turned in a workmanlike effort, but for such a gonzo rednecksploitation-friendly premise, Rice’s approach seems awfully perfunctory. What’s the point if we can’t have fun?