“Unhinged” is the kind of b-movie that normally would have gone straight to DVD or streaming but in our topsy-turvy pandemic world, where the rules are being constantly rewritten, the new Russell Crowe psychothriller is playing only in theatres this weekend.
Hairdresser Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is having a rough time. The young mom is in the midst of a brutal divorce and her brother and his girlfriend are unwelcome guests at her home.
Today she’s stuck in traffic and if things don’t get moving, she’ll be late for both an appointment with a client and dropping her son (Gabriel Bateman) at school. Pulling her Volvo tight behind an idling truck belonging to Tom Cooper (Crowe), she honks her horn and triggers an epic fit of road rage. “I need you to learn what a bad day is,” he says, “and I need you to learn how to say sorry.”
Subtlety, thy name is not “Unhinged.” From Crowe’s snarling, sweating psychopath and a bloody “courtesy tap” to emasculation and car crashes, the movie delivers a buffet of b-movie pleasures. Crowe spits out lines like, “I’ll make my contribution this day with violence and retribution,” and amps up the angry but like the movie itself, he’s one, loud note.
Director Derrick Borte begins the film with context, a long montage of current world ills, suggesting that things are falling to pieces because we lack civility, but then forgoes any kind of social commentary in a story that relies on shock and awe to fill the screen with violent images. At one point Cooper talks about being an “invisible” man and, after a diner scene, it’s clear he has no love for divorce lawyers, but that’s it for character development. He is simply a dangerous man who has been cut loose of the bonds of polite society.
In the relatively small sub-genre of Crazed Driver Movies—“Duel” and “The Hitcher” come to mind—“Unhinged” distinguishes itself by keeping the pedal to the metal without providing anything new in the way of thrills. As a study of an emasculated man seeking revenge it brings to mind “Falling Down,” Michael Douglas’ 1993 black comedy, except “Unhinged” is all darkness and no comedy.