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Unchained (2021) Review

As Unchained begins, Aella (Mair Mulroney, Furry Hamsters from Hell) is broke. She’s trying to get a job, we see her go into stores with help wanted signs, and come back out looking unhappy. But memories of her father (Eric Roberts, The Cove, 616 Wilford Lane) sitting in his chair spouting inspiring quotes keeps her going. Then, as she’s literally sitting on a pile of unpaid bills, an invitation to audition for a film about an underground female fight club comes through her letterbox.

Of course, she rushes off to it without telling anyone, and after throwing some extremely unimpressive punches for a guy who’s looking at his phone, not her, is told she has the part. She’s then hit over the head and wakes to find out she’s now part of an underground female fight club and expected to fight to the death for its viewers. All eight of them, who watch via Zoom.

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Unchained is a disaster from start to finish. Especially the finish, which is one of the most jaw-droppingly ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. The director, a guy simply named Raphaello (Bloodbath – The Motion Picture, Rogue Planet Gamma) co-wrote this with John Bryan and Ilia Constantine. You would have thought at least one of them would have realized how badly it needed rewrites, or better yet, tossed in the trash and forgotten.

The villains in Unchained are almost laughably pathetic. There’s The Warden (Larry L Andrews, Slay Belles, Mummy Dearest) who looks like someone spliced the DNA of Tom Savini and Steven Segal, (the current out-of-shape version) and spews hysterically over-the-top threats and boasts about how much he loves abusing women.

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His second in command Regina is played by Kira Hennigan, wife of wrestler/actor John Hennigan (Strange Nature, The 27 Club). She’s billed here under her former wrestling name Taya Valkyrie and currently wrestles as Franky Monet. Her character not only has a wildly implausible arc, but she also doesn’t have any fight scenes. Yes, the one person in the film who is trained to fight for the camera doesn’t get to.

Neither Aella nor any of the handful of other captive women in Unchained seems to have any real fighting skills. They don’t even look particularly athletic, just skinny with no real muscle tone. To make it worse, there are endless scenes of them practising throwing slow, weak, punches at the camera. When they do fight, the choreography is bad to the point you can see punches and kicks miss their target while still getting a response. They try to hide it with tons of Matrix-style “bullet time” shots, but even that can’t save the scenes.

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But not only does Unchained blow it in the action department, it goes totally off the rails plot-wise in the last half hour. This all involves the mysterious figure running the whole cooperation (Sloan Roberts, Foxes, King of the Mountain) and his obsession with Aella. Through a plot twist that stretches credibility to the breaking point, she gets her chance to confront him. She has a gun pointed at his head, ready to make good on her vow to make him pay for ruining countless women’s lives and…

I’m not going to spoil it, but just think of the stupidest, least probable thing she could do here, and you’ll probably be right.

I had thought that Scott Jeffrey’s HellKat was as bad as the female forced-to-fight genre could get. Unchained proved me wrong. It’s the kind of film that makes me question why I keep doing reviews instead of taking up a hobby like helping to clear minefields.

Unchained will be released July 2nd on digital from Leomark Studios. You have been warned. There’s a website, but it’s as pointless as the film.

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