- Nate Adams
Review: Russell Crowe goes off the deep end in terribly obnoxious 'Unhinged'
Courtesy of Solstice Studios
Herald as the first new wide releases since March, when theaters closed down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russell Crowe road rage thriller “Unhinged,” from upstart distribution company Solstice Studio, is banking on audiences willingness to venture into theaters. I mean, it’s a solid game plan considering all theaters won’t truly be open and at full capacity until there’s a vaccine and even then, we’ve all grown accustomed to streaming and video on demand, it’s tough to say if people will travel back to theaters anyway. So why not throw a bargain bill thriller with a recognizable star onto marquees and see who shows up?
Sadly, I don’t think “Unhinged” is the movie that’s going to save cinemas, in fact, it might hurt the moviegoing experience more than help it. And I’d say that even if we weren’t living through a pandemic.
Yes, “Unhinged” is a terrible movie, marketed and packaged like a summer blockbuster, except it isn't. Granted, it is the only “new” film hitting theaters, so it might benefit from people desperate to leave their homes, but lemme tell you, if there was ever a movie to risk your life for, this dull and pointless thriller is most certainly not it.
For starters, Crowe isn’t the movie star persona he used to be, so we must first get past that small caveat. Your love and appreciation of “Gladiator” and “A Beautiful Mind” notwithstanding, he can’t save this lazy B-movie from a majority of its illogical plot devices. Director Derrick Bone borrows troupes made famous from “Falling Down” and Steven Spielbergs’ “Duel,” and it just goes to show how off-touch he is with the material.
“Unhinged” is the story of a man - literally his name in the credits is “The Man” - although at one point he goes by the alias of Tom Cooper. The Man is clearly aggravated and upset for reasons I couldn’t tell you, but it probably has something to do with a pre-credit sequence where he beats a man and women with a hammer and sets their house ablaze. Then, in a spat of pent up frustration, decides to ruin the life of some helpless single mom whose trying to make sure her son isn’t late for school.
That “Unhinged” heavily relies on the threat of violence against women says all you really need to know about the tasteless screenplay, but then suggesting that some women might deserve it because they overslept is another beast altogether.
This is where we meet Rachel (Caren Pistorius) who is dealing with an impending divorce and is trying to be the best mom she can. As she’s on the freeway, taking her son to school, they wind up in a massive traffic jam and decide to take the next exit and hit the backroads. Of course, they get stuck behind a monster size SUV at a red light, and when it flips green and doesn’t move, Rachel bleeps her horn, and The Man pulls up alongside her at the next intersection, pissed at her arrogance, demanding an apology. When she doesn’t comply, it sets off a series of unusual violent montages, where Crowe - doing some thick accent that comes and goes - starts murdering members of Rachel’s family. There’s literally a scene inside a public diner, with a bunch of spectors, where The Man bludgeons someone with a coffee cup and sticks a butter knife in their neck and somehow the Police can’t find him, despite all the very accessible footage of him comitting the crime, allowing the maniac to wreak more havoc.
I don’t know if I was expecting more from “Unhinged” considering all the hype around its release, but in films like “The Hitcher” and “Duel,” crazy drivers going off the rails can be a fun premise for any seasoned actor to sink their teeth into. To his credit, Crowe is certainly striving for something. I don’t know exactly what that is, but it’s something. He’s cranking up his performance to unbelievable heights, that his co-stars can’t even come close, like he’s caught in a film that doesn’t know how to use his talents. And while there’s some mildly crafted thrills and a plot twist or two along the way, “Unhinged” often comes up empty. There’s nothing to root for: just a really cranky middle-aged man who doesn’t know how to handle his issues.
Which really sucks, because the film is arriving at a time when release calendars lay vacant and the studios have pushed their biggest releases into 2021. If films like “Unhinged” are going to be the new staple when it comes to getting audiences back into theaters, I may have to start rethinking my career path.
UNHINGED opens *only* in theaters Friday August 21st. Check your local listings for showtimes.