Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is having a bad day. She woke-up late, she needs to sign her divorce papers, she lost her best client, and she is late for dropping her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) off at school. When she comes up to a traffic stop, she loudly honks her horn because the large truck in front of her is not moving. At the next intersection, the man in that truck (Russell Crowe) stops next to her, explains himself, apologizes and asks for an apology back. When she refuses, he promises that he will make her day so much worse.
And believe me when I say this unhinged psychopath more than makes good on that promise.
I am not sure what I initially expected from Unhinged, but I was quite surprised by what a mean, nasty and relentless little Thriller it is. I spent parts of this Movie wide-eyed, and other parts with my mouth wide open in shock. It goes to some truly cruel and mean-spirited places, and sets only the vaguest of limits in between all of its vicious violence. It is deliberately cartoonish and campy in some of those scenes, but other moments are so dramatically outrageous that they are downright comical. The tonal pendulum swings chaotically both ways, and you will discover rather quickly if you are on-board for the madness or ready to hop in your car and screech away as fast as possible.
While Pistorius and Bateman are effective in their roles (especially for characters with such light histories and motivations), they are practically on another plane of existence compared to Crowe. He does not look like his usual Oscar-winning self, instead carrying extra weight and lumbering around like a mad ape. His brooding performance has been compared to Michael Douglas’ work in 1993’s Falling Down. But Douglas was a good guy pushed to the edge in that film. Crowe is a bad guy here, pushed well over the edge and into full blown menace. The seething rage in his eyes and his expressions are a remarkable sight; he spends most of the Film practically foaming at the mouth with anger, even when he is pretending to be calm and collected. He speaks in a Southern tone that sounds like he has spent half his day smoking and the other half gargling rocks. It is a calculated, lived in and genuinely deranged performance that works so well because Crowe knows just when to be restrained and when to go all in. I just wish he could bring this kind of scorching intensity to all of his performances.
If I fault Unhinged for anything, it is in how the camera deliberately lingers far too often on specific items and pieces of dialogue. You will know the exact moments and you will feel the exact “Guess I should remember that for later” feeling I did – full well knowing most of it will come into play later on. These moments throw off the film’s hurried pacing and makes some of the fun a bit too predictable.
Unhinged is viciously-violent, otherworldly cruel and can be easily written-off as campy trash. But I know in my bones that it would be an absolute blast to watch with a large group. It shook me so much that I refused to honk at the terrible drivers on the road for days afterwards. I was too scared of having a run-in with a deranged looney toon like Crowe. Small price to pay for such a wild ride.
VVS Films release UNHINGED in Theatres on Friday, August 14, 2020.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre*