It’s tempting to look at Catch Hell, Ryan Phillippe’s directing debut, as something of an incantation. Phillippe plays Reagan Pearce (note the initials), an on-his-way-down actor spinning his wheels in a Louisiana indie while looking for a role to change his luck.
One morning he’s kidnapped by locals — an aggrieved husband and his swamp-rat nephew — who chain him up in a bayou shack in order to torture him, and, improbably, hack into his social media. After a beatdown with a “gator thumper” — a nasty, heavy club that crushes Pearce’s hands (leaving his face largely unscathed) — Mike (Ian Barford) attempts to destroy his victim’s rep by uploading naked photos and anti-Semitic rants to Pearce’s Twitter account.
Barford’s performance is largely played in the key of hillbilly rage, and Phillippe’s Pearce never fully conveys the physical toll of his captivity. (As a director, he has other problems: Catch Hell suffers from both a drowsy start and a dragging ending.) More interesting is Junior (Stephen Grush), whose repressed gay urges come bubbling up once he’s alone with hunky Pearce, captive on a musty cot.
Catch Hell might not catapult Phillippe back into the spotlight, but as Junior, Grush is by turns ashamed, bashful, and dangerous; he could perhaps do more if given the chance.