Running time: 93 minutes
Written by: Carl Ellsworth
Directed by: Derrick Borte
Featuring: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson and Austin P. McKenzie
Tom: [to Rachel] “I don’t think you know what a bad day is! But you’ll find out.”
Released recently on DVD and Bluray is the Russell Crowe starer “Unhinged” (2020) that on paper sounds like an interesting idea, even the trailer seemed liked it might be something to view especially as this movie was initially released when theatres were open or opening after some initial lockdowns, however after actually watching this mess of a movie I would say from the beginning that this a movie to avoid as much as possible. At its simplest it is part of a sub genre of movie that has all but disappeared, that being one person being hunted down by another in motor vehicles. “Unhinged” is nothing more than a ripoff (not homage) to any number of these types of movies dating back to what must be an original in Steven Spielberg’s classic “Duel” (1971), in fact it is not even a very smart rip off, it actually highlights why these types of genre movies have all but disappeared, mainly due to technology, in particular the smartphone.
Ever since “Duel” was released there have been over the years a steady stream of people being hunted by assailants in motor vehicles, the vast majority have been unknown when the narrative strictly sticks to one person being hunted by another in a motor vehicle. Of course over the years this narrative has been altered to not only open up the horizons of such a movie but also to reflect technology which is where this movie falls down in a big way with its hilarious use of communications technology which is ridiculous. I am not going to bore you endlessly with why but it should become obvious even to those with low tech IQs. The other element that is frankly hard to wrap your mind around are the performances and traits of the characters themselves, I had some hope seeing Russell Crowe in this movie but they were quickly dashed when any hint of mystery of his character disappears in the opening few minutes. As for the protagonists in Caren Pistorius and Gabriel Bateman they offer very little in the way of sympathy or intelligence which is a lost opportunity. There are very good reasons why the antagonist in these genre films sometimes remains a mystery or at least mysterious, that is to heighten the relationship between antagonist and protagonist, it also creates the fear of the unknown, just watch “Duel”, you will see what I mean.
“Unhinged” is more or less based around Tom Cooper, a mentally unstable man feeling powerless and invisible to the world. It also has at its core Rachel Flynn, a newly-divorced single mother living in New Orleans, who is driving her 15-year-old son Kyle to school in rush hour traffic. She is running late to work and honks at a pickup truck that has failed to go after the light has turned green. The owner of the truck, who happens to be Tom, soon catches up to Rachel and after apologizing to her, he asks for an apology back to “hit reset”. The exchange escalates when Rachel tells him that she has nothing to apologize for. A small chase ensues before Rachel loses Tom and is able to drop Kyle off at school. Soon, Rachel finds herself and everyone she loves the target of a man who, since he has nothing left to lose, chooses to make one last mark upon the world by teaching her a series of “deadly lessons”. It is also indicated on the news that Tom is a wanted man. From here the movie moves from just competent to unbelievably incompetent, this really is a s good as it gets. I will not spoil it any further but there are attempts to explain why Rachel would not call the police and not play Tom’s game but they are unbelievable.
Directed by Derrick Borte and written by Carl Ellsworth both of who must have had some scandalous information on Russell Crowe for him to agree to this pile of garbage there is no way either of these people should be directing and writing for an actor of this calibre. Neither of them have in their oeuvre an inkling they could create something original at all, Borte has directed some real C grade schlock and while Ellsworth has written some successful movies they have almost all either been ripoffs of other movies or straight modern remakes which have all been at their best average, at their worst “Unhinged”. This is a movie that is so unremarkable if you do not guess how the movie will resolve then you have never seen a horror movie at all, this is poorly written, directed and acted, maybe the catering onset was special, although I doubt it.
The cast is headed by Russell Crowe who is the beefiest he has been which I suppose is meant to be intimidating but he is such a mess in it I could not help but feel sympathy for him which might be the idea but seeing an overweight middle aged man ranting and raving does not really inspire anything, it seems like either a mishandled character, a badly written one or major miscasting. The characters of Rachel and Kyle portrayed by Caren Pistorius and Gabriel Bateman lack any real substance, so could have been played by anyone, they are at best cyphers of real people. Finally when I saw Jimmi Simpson’s name I thought there was someone to look forward to, an actor who for the past few years has been an indication of not only a quality project but someone who was great to watch but his appearance is so fleeting it is a wonder he has a credit, a great loss indeed.
This is also a movie that attempts to wear its political leanings on its sleeve with someone who is obviously a right wing deplorable in Tom against a left wing family in Rachel which is frankly unimaginative, uninspired and clumsy to say the least. The character if Tom is someone who obviously does not look after themselves, is not self aware, is self entitled and buys into the great silent majority that Trump speaks about. The opposite could be said of Rachel a left wing nebbish character who is attempting to get back on the ‘right’ track, who is victimised for a slight that she thinks nothing of at all, but pays some very steep prices. The way violence is dished out is not done in a way that would indicate nothing more than a fetishism.
I could not recommend this movie at all, it is not well produced, written, acted or directed, the story is a ripoff but not a very well executed ripoff, there are flaws throughout which make it a step to far in my opinion, avoid at all costs.