Director: Derrick Borte
Cast: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Jimmi Simpson, Gabriel Bateman
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 30 July 2020
Synopsis: A mother leans on her horn at the wrong time to the wrong guy. Road rage doesn't begin to describe what he's about to do to her and everyone she knows.
If your mental image of Russell Crowe is as the Roman general Maximus in ‘Gladiator’, you’ll be shocked just how much of a difference two decades have made.
As an aggrieved divorcee whose name in the credits is simply ‘The Man’, Crowe is more obese than you have ever seen him before. And just so you feel how all that weight is treating him, Crowe looks perennially sweaty, huffing and puffing throughout this lean and effective B-movie thriller.
Oh yes, much as it touts the Academy-Award winning Crowe, ‘Unhinged’ is ultimately a pulpy B-movie whose main pleasure is in watching Crowe go absolutely… unhinged.
It is nasty all right, and it makes no attempt to disguise that fact with an opening sequence which sees Crowe marching up with an axe to the house where his ex-wife and lover lives, hacking open the front door and setting the whole house on fire.
Indeed, neither director Derrick Borte or writer Carl Ellsworth seem too much bothered about humanising Crowe’s character; rather, they move quickly to set up the circumstances by which his path will cross with that of single mum Rachel (Caren Pistorious), so that he can quickly get to unleashing his anger in a couple of brutal set-pieces.
En route to Rachel and her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman), Crowe will chart a bloody path through Rachel’s divorce lawyer, her teenage brother Freddie (Austin P. McKenzie) and his girlfriend Mary (Lucy Faust), and even a good Samaritan at a gas station. You’ll loathe The Man all right, but it is testament to Crowe’s weight as an actor (no pun intended) that you feel so intensely about the character he plays.
On the other hand, Pistorious doesn’t overplay Rachel’s vulnerabilities, even as the plotting clearly sets us up to empathise with her situation – an ex-husband who wants half of her house; getting fired by her biggest client; and being stuck in a snarling traffic jam all in the same morning. Neither for that matter does she exaggerate her comeuppance against Crowe, ensuring that her character preserves her credibility throughout the movie.
But like we said, the point of the movie is about watching Crowe’s homicidal psychopath play cat-and-mouse with Rachel. Of particular note is a freeway chase with unmistakably real carnage, which Borte and his team deliver with impressive kineticism. After a deliberately paced build-up, the film never loses its momentum as it cranks into sheer overdrive, but those who love their thrillers pulpy are not likely to mind at all.
So no matter the busy opening credits which hints at social commentary of an angry and divided society, this is a road-rage revenge thriller whose sole ambition is to deliver B-movie thrills. And thanks to a thoroughly committed performance by Crowe, it is viscerally intense and heart-thumpingly executed. Comparisons with ‘Duel’, ‘Falling Down’ or ‘Joy Ride’ are inevitable, but ‘Unhinged’ is true and through about Crowe doing exactly what it says on the title.
(There's only one reason to watch it - Russell Crowe going 'Unhinged')
Review by Gabriel Chong