By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Simeon Rice - Photo Credit- Arlen J
A gripping action thriller about a young woman who gets stranded in the Florida boondocks, “Unsullied” marks the feature-film directing debut of NFL superstar Simeon Rice.
A film that veers into a nightmarish melodrama of imprisonment and attempted escape, it gives Houston native, Murray Gray, one of the chewiest roles of her career.
“This film is about what your mind and your body can do when you are put in a situation that involves fear,” says Gray, a taekwondo black expert who tackles her first leading role in this suspenseful thriller.
Murray Gray as Reagan Farrow
In “Unsullied,” Gray plays Reagan Farrow, a world-class athlete who finds herself stranded in a remote wooded area after her car breaks down. Unwisely accepting a ride from a pair of charming strangers (played by Rusty Joiner and James Gaudioso), she is rendered unconscious and wakes up to find herself tied up in an isolated dark room. After witnessing her captors raping yet another female victim in a nearby room, she manages to escape, but doesn’t get too far. Taking refuge in the forest, she is relentlessly pursued by the two thrill seeking sadists and it becomes a cat and mouse game that maintains a gripping pace throughout.
“This story is so much more than a suspense action thriller,” shares Gray, who was drawn to the physicality of the role. “I’m a huge athlete and I want to do anything that uses that part of me. I loved the action and adventure elements in this script.”
With a few twists and turns, “Unsullied” has a tight story and structure. Most of it serves simultaneously as female victim and empowered heroine as Gray, who is thoroughly convincing in the part, is pushed to her limit while she tries to outwit her captors. There are plenty of moments of well-crafted thrills in this flick and she reliably carries them off.
“I want the audience to be on the edge of their seats, feeling like they are running through the wilderness with her,” shares Simeon Rice who makes his foray into feature length filmmaking with this project. “There’s also the message that we shouldn’t often trust what we see. We travel by what we see, we order menus by what we see and all that glitters isn’t gold. I wanted to create a complicated situation where a female was going to be put in this environment and you could see how strong she was and how much she was willing to fight.”
An independent project made under his production company Dreamline Pictures, which he founded in 2011, Rice wrote and directed the film, along with producers Michelle Gracie, Ghana Cooper, John Hermann and John Nodilo.
Beautifully directed and skillfully edited with a climactic ending, it’s the sort of action thriller Hollywood studios would clamor for, but Rice says he was forced to take the independent route to retain the film’s vision.
“I wrote the role for a girl that looks like my little sister and wanted the black girl — the hood black girl, but not in the sense of being so over the top. But I was told that even though it was a great script, it couldn’t be made without any bankable names and that an African-American lead was not going to translate onscreen.”
It’s an advice Rice wisely dismissed.
Rusty Joiner, Murray Gray and James Gaudioso
“I don’t believe the public cares about that. If they cared about that, then the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ type movies don’t get made. Those don’t have bankable names. People watch stories and follow stories and what makes it relatable are the characters and the story.”
“Unsullied” is rated R and releases in theaters Aug. 28, 2015
With a solid movie and a great marketing strategy, Rice is likely to prove Hollywood wrong, although for the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s player that is not his goal.
“It’s not about proving anybody wrong, it’s about proving myself right. If you believe in yourself and you see what you want to execute and have total faith in it, that spirit of positivity will carry you to a place of success. A lot of people said this movie would never see the light of day and this is hard work, blood, sweat and tears. I want people to go and experience this film for it will resonate with them.”
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