28th Jul2021

‘Unchained’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Mair Mulroney, Maricris Lapaix, Roni Weissman, Kasarlina Wang, Svetlana Constantine, Larry L Andrews, Taya Valkyrie, Eric Roberts | Written by Raphaello, John Bryan, Ilia Constantine | Directed by Raphaello

It seems the “captured female forced to fight” genre is back in full swing these days… After all we recently had the likes of Hellkat, which saw a woman fight for her life – literally; and to a lesser extent Female Fight Squad, in which women fight each other in an underground club, oftentimes against their will.

Unchained sees Aella (Mair Mulroney), an idealistic former soldier struggling to reintegrate into society, is kidnapped and forced to compete in an underground fight ring. Every night is a fight for her life as she plans to overthrow her captors and save the lives of many others doomed to the same endless cycle.

Directed by the single-monikered Raphaello, whose previous films Bloodbath: The Motion Picture and Rogue Planet Gamma I’m unfamiliar with, Unchained has been derided somewhat by reviewers, but I beg to differ. After all, I’m one of the few people who actually dug Hellkat – a similar film that people also said was something of a disaster. Why do I beg to differ? Two things… well people actually.

First off is Larry L Andrews (Slay Belles, Mummy Dearest), who plays the the warden of the captured woman and proceeds to ham it up every chance he gets. Ridiculously over the top and at times sadistic and vicious, Andrews plays this his role in the same vein as the dodgy prison wardens of the women in prison films of old – never quite finding the right line to walk between camp and believable. And you have to love his gloriously villainous Fun Manchu-style moustache…

But the real reason I enjoyed, yes ENJOYED, Unchained, is the films star Mair Mulroney aka ThatGirlMair, an actress, musician, composer, singer-songwriter, model and writer (she even contributed a song to this films soundtrack) whose charisma is undeniable. From the very second Mulroney first appeared on screen I was captivated. She has a screen presence that should, hopefully, see her star rise higher than low-budget films such as this. Though there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with this film or low-budget films of a similar ilk!

Speaking of performers, female wrestler Kira Hennigan, aka Taya Valkyrie aka Frankie Monet, wife of wrestler John Hennigan – a man who has carved a secondary career as an action movie star himself, appears in Unchained as Regina, the woman tasked with training the kidnapped women to fight. And that’s all she does. Train them. Imagine having some with fight experience in your film and NOT using that persons particular skillset?! Then there’s Eric Roberts, who films a cameo as Aella’s father, shown in flashbacks reading to her as a young child… This is one of those times where it’s clear Roberts’ performance has been spliced into the film, seemingly recorded far way from the rest of the production.

There’s a plot-twist to Unchained that ups the stakes for Aella but its one that, honestly, didn’t need to be a part of the films story. Kidnapped women fighting, literally, for their lives is more than enough plot. Film like these need one thing. Fighting. And plenty of it. We get that here but unfortunately it’s not in enough quantity – instead the films spend too much time focussing on the women sparing in the “training camp” and their captors waffling on about how powerful they are and how weak the women are! A minor quibble for a film that at least tries to keep the genre alive.

*** 3/5

Part martial arts movie, part old-school women in prison exploitation film Unchained is out now on digital from Leomark Studios.

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