Perhaps the most well regarded if these is Darren Aronofsky's 2008 Mickey Rourke kickstarter, THE WRESTLER, a low budget affair that garnered both its stars Oscar nods and a few more years of paid work. A fictional narrative that blurred the lines between fiction and reality while always hinging on perhaps the only thing that traversed the two worlds; raw emotion.
It's no surprise that others should try and emulate Aronofsky's success, JCVD most notably, casting has-beens as has-beens with a wink and a nod and a tongue in the cheek. And more often that not those aping the formula have a legitimate legacy to capitalise on and exploit.
Then up pops Ryan Phillippe in his directorial debut. You remember Ryan Phillippe. He was the other guy in I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and 54. He was the baby-face heart-throb that tried being a tough guy in THE WAY OF THE GUN. Sure, you remember Ryan Phillippe. The guy who is currently starring in the Netflix TV remake of Antoine Fuqua's SHOOTER. Of course you remember Ryan Phillippe.
So here he is, directing, starring and writing his own film as a washed-up actor who gets kidnapped in the back woods of Louisianna by some disgruntled cajun's. He is chained to a pipe, abused for 90-minutes, and taunted with 'gators for something he claims he didn't do. A curious redemption story, right? If, indeed, it IS actually a self-conscious nod at a redemption story. Because it may simply be a wildly good time. Which, thankfully, it is.
Shot in 2014 it's inexplicably taken 3-years for CATCH HELL to reach our shores and it's a shame, because it is a tidy little film. Phillippe is, obviously, giving it all he's got in front and behind the camera. The bayou locations are humid and steamy and authentic and the threat feels very real, even if we have seen it a dozen times before (see UNKNOWN, SAW, FIVE FINGERS, ALBINO ALLIGATOR, DELIVERANCE, etc).
There's some fun to be had if you don't mind the dank, sleazy turgid kinda stuff and for all its nastiness it's a relatively undemanding watch, purely because it is so derivative. Is it great? No, not even close. Is it competent? Yes, it is very assured. Does it show promise for Phillippe as a film maker? Absolutely! Let's see what this washed-up former pretty-boy will do next.
CATCH HELL IS AVAILABLE ON DVD THROUGH EAGLE ENTERTAINMENT.