Welcome to “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!” a new blog post series where I watch movies that sound bad and then write about them, mostly to see if they’re worth watching. The first film is “Catch Hell,” which was written and directed by its star, Ryan Phillippe.
Regan Pierce (Phillippe) is an actor seeking a film to catapult him back to the top. He goes down to Shreveport, Louisiana and stays in the world’s saddest Holiday Inn, preparing to shoot a new film. The day after he arrives, he’s picked up in a van by Michael (Ian Barford) and Junior (Stephen Louis Grush), who are basically the stock terrifying rednecks you find in a movie. They kidnap him, take him to a shack in the middle of the swamp and proceed to torture him over the next few days and leak nude pictures and send anti-Semetic and homophobic tweets from his account as retribution for Pierce sleeping with Michael’s wife, Diane (Joyful Drake).
The biggest problem is I don’t care about Pierce at all. This is his story, one where he triumphs over his kidnappers and I just don’t care about what happens to him. He, like all of the other characters, feels generic. There are moments in the film where it feels like attempts are made to bring depth to the characters–okay, just Michael and Junior–but it never happens for Pierce. He’s just a generic celebrity. What attempts there are to give the captors depth comes with Junior showing kindness to Pierce and revealing he’s gay and maybe Michael trying to reconcile with his wife. But that’s it.
Another problem with the film is how poorly paced it feels. The first fifteen minutes has moments of trying to feel suspenseful, such as a scene where Pierce is in the fitness center of his hotel, but we just jump to him being kidnapped and then that goes straight to the torturing, which goes straight to 11 in terms of intensity and instead of building gradually. Although this may speak more to Michael being a terrible captor, it doesn’t work dramatically for the film.
The odd thing is the film is somehow entertaining. There are moments meant to be suspenseful that end up being humorous, like Pierce working out in the fitness center as a housekeeper slowly wipes off the window, which does lead to it being an entertaining film. But the film manages to not be unbearably bad because Grush and Barford give fantastic performances in this film. Although they are given rather cartoonish characters to play–Barford more so than Grush–the performances help make the captors a bit human.
The problem is they are not giving transcendent performances in this film that suddenly makes it worth watching. I had already seen Barford and Grush in something and it was “The March” at Steppenwolf, which I enjoyed. The film is ultimately rather dumb in terms of plot points and is supposed to make us rally around someone, but there’s no one worth rallying around. But I have to give it credit for keeping me entertained and not having an entirely baffling premise.
Also, the end credits play over footage of Junior dancing in a gator skin while Pierce laughs. So, that’s amusing and a bizarre note to end on.
Verdict: Skip, but if there’s video of the end credits, watch that because it’s bizarre enough to warrant a watch.