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'Unsullied' a thoughtful woman-in-distress thriller

'Unsullied' a thoughtful woman-in-distress thriller
A scene from the film "Unsullied." (Lambert Releasing)

When her car breaks down on the way to a track meet, sprinter Reagan Farrow (Murray Gray) gets a lift from two strangers who turn out to be cannibalistic serial killers.

"Unsullied" screenwriter John Nodilo ameliorates an otherwise generic cat-and-mouse thriller with unusually thoughtful expositions. Reagan is grieving the loss of the older sister, Kim (Nicole Paris Williams), who trained her. Flashbacks to Kim's motivating words help Reagan push through her desperate hours.

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Her abductors, Noah (Rusty Joiner) and Mason (James Gaudioso), prove equally complex. These Southerners aren't your stereotypical rednecks. Having struck it rich as wolves of Wall Street, these American psychos are beloved patrons and generous tippers in the desolate town they regularly visit on "hunting" trips. Although Noah and Mason seem indiscriminate when it comes to picking their female prey, the fact that Reagan is black and hounded by their dogs conjures the South's troubled legacy.

It's almost inconceivable that this effective, nerve-racking thriller is the first feature from former NFL defensive end Simeon Rice. It requires the usual suspension of disbelief, and pacing problems are a sign of Rice's directorial inexperience. But the tension he creates is unrelenting.

Since that classic shower scene in "Psycho," women in slasher films have been corporally punished for baring skin or being sexual. But "Unsullied" is not that kind of film; it doesn't characterize women as tramps. It gives them back stories that make us give a damn.

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"Unsullied."

MPAA rating: R for violence including rape, language, brief drug use.

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

Playing: In limited release.

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