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Ryan Phillippe writes, directs and flatly acts in 'Catch Hell'

Ryan Phillippe writes, directs and flatly acts in 'Catch Hell'
A scene from "Catch Hell." (Handout)

There's more than a dollop of "Deliverance" in "Catch Hell," a twisted backwoods thriller that marks Ryan Phillippe's assured directorial debut.

Phillippe, who also shares screenplay credit with Joe Gossett, plays Reagan Pearce, a recently rehabbed Hollywood actor who reluctantly signs on for a cheesy action movie shot on location in Shreveport, La.

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Pearce should have trusted his instincts.

When he's picked up the next morning by what he assumes to be the production crew van, he's abducted by two sadistic thugs (Ian Barford and a creepily endearing Stephen Louis Grush) who keep him chained and tortured in a shack hidden deep in the Louisiana swamp.

It turns out that's it's not ransom they're after but revenge in connection with Pearce's former bad-boy behavior.

While Phillippe's tongue seldom ventures far from his cheek in addressing the cult of celebrity, he maintains a nice technical grip on the tension and intensity — at least until things start to unravel toward the end. His flatly reactive performance never allows us to see what's going on inside his character's head, but at least the Baton Rouge backdrops are steeped in thick, dank atmosphere. The film will leave you with one fierce gumbo craving.

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"Catch Hell"

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.

Playing: the Arena Cinema, Hollywood.

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