Touted as the film to welcome people back into cinemas, Unhinged comes to DVD and Blu-Ray where it’ll mostly be seen. The film starts promisingly enough with a dark silent cold open of unrelenting violence, followed by clips of ongoing incidents of anger and road rage in the US but after this the film falls into cliche. Caren Pistorius is suitably sympathetic and tired looking as divorced mother Rachel who happens to get on the wrong side of a fat, beardy Russell Crowe on morning while driving with her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman).
The film, coming from director Derrick Borte has the sheen of a slick Hollywood movie, though is throwback in it’s tone. Borte knows how to keep the car-based action fresh and to make acts of violence impactful and upsetting. The writing, from Carl Ellsworth is less certain than previous work like Red Eye or Disturbia but the idea of making this road raged villain unexplainable is interesting enough.
In the role of “Man” – a name is given but we’re not sure this is the truth or a lie – Crowe delivers a performance of suitably menace. As large, as he was when made up to play Roger Ailes, Crowe carries his heft well while always looking like he’s on the verge of a very real, and rather fatal heart attack. His performance may be one dimensional but Crowe snarls his lines with a slight southern drawl like he’s enjoying himself.
The film itself wants to be a film in the mold of other Angry White Man films, coming across as a mix between Steven Spielberg’s Duel and Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down but the choice to only vaguely explain his rage undoes either the unexplainable terror or give the character some nuance. At times the points the film wants to make about people’s inability to see past their own needs and refusal to apologise is again undone by the film’s shlock violence and escalating stakes. In a way, the film wants to be an antidote to Joker and have a mentally ill villain who isn’t fawned over with sympathy, but neither films are really aware of what their message about society at large is, leaving this sense that what you’re watching is an overreaction of monumental proportions for what is a very minor incident.
Even so, the film is a fun enough B-movie with enough villainous growling from Crowe, and a sturdy lead turn from Pistorius to cruise past the film’s flaws even if it’s politics seem confused at times. The film could have done with a little more examination of why people are drawn into cycles of aggression, especially while driving, but ultimately it’s not a film about that, it’s a film about a fat guy terrorising a woman for ninety minutes, before a final showdown. For that, it just about gets away with it.
Dir: Derrick Borte
Scr: Carl Ellsworth
Cast: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Jimmi Simpson, Gabriel Bateman
Prd: Lisa Ellzey, Andrew Gunn, Mark Gill
DOP: Brendan Galvin
Music: David Buckley
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Unhinged will be available on VOD, Blu-ray, DVD and iTunes in 4K from 23rd Nov