Unhinged (2020)
Unhinged (2020)

Genre: Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: August 21st, 2020 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Derrick Borte Actors: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson, Austin P. McKenzie, Juliene Joyner, Anne Leighton

 


 

A

fter downing a handful of pills and tossing aside his wedding ring, a deranged man (Russell Crowe, transitioning into his later Orson-Welles-type of years) breaks into an Arbor Hills home, murders the two inhabitants, and sets the house ablaze. This sudden, brutal introduction transitions into a montage of violent acts – real footage of road rage and tumultuous protests and police interactions, unambiguously foreshadowing the coming story. The following morning, stressed Rachel (Caren Pistorius), who is going through a difficult divorce, takes her teenage son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) to school. In an effort to make better time, she crosscuts through a standstill onto the highway, which is supposed to be clearer.

“Plans can be hard to stick to … ” The first 15 minutes of the story proper build up a significant number of trite details, ranging from Kyle’s father’s broken promises to Rachel losing a client due to oversleeping to her lawyer (Jimmi Simpson) calling with upsetting updates on a settlement. There’s even commentary on her brother staying at her house, with an annoying girlfriend to add typical discord. Fortunately, it’s not long before she moseys up behind the unnamed man from the opening scene and lays down an angry honking when he stalls for too long at a light. This instigates an epic level of vehicular retaliation, in which the maniacal madman makes it his mission to teach Rachel a thing or two about courtesy, patience, apologies, consequences, and really bad days.

It’s almost comical when Crowe pulls alongside the protagonist and beckons for her to roll down the window – which then gets stuck, in standard horror-movie fashion. Amusingly, however, with such a simple yet obvious premise, every mundane, routine action suddenly becomes nerve-wracking; could simply pulling over, stopping at a gas station, or buying a bottle of water spontaneously shift into a matter of life or death? Intriguingly, there are a few unexpected complications that move beyond the realm of the road, particularly as the enraged killer starts stalking friends, family, and acquaintances.

“We’re on our own.” It could almost be a cautionary tale (not just about road rage but also locking one’s phone and staying organized) were it not for the action-packed, over-the-top extremes of bloodshed and cinematic retribution, mirroring some of the design of “Locke,” a few of the notions from “The Hit List,” and several of the chills of “Joy Ride.” Even a few of the car crashes rival the stunts of the Fast and Furious series. The occasional sequences of frightening realism are quickly washed out by monster movie excessiveness, but it’s undeniably engaging; the tension is incredible. Plus, Crowe is clearly having a grand old time, playing against type, tossing around grimaces, and unfurling threatening growls. It’s too bad that so many generic mistakes are made, such as characters loudly knocking things over while hiding, or repeatedly underestimating the juggernaut opponent. Nevertheless, “Unhinged” is still a quick, fun little nail-biter.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10