Sometimes movies end up being something you wouldn’t expect…or maybe you would?
With Unhinged hitting theatres this Friday, we get a solid frame work of a horror movie that plays as timely and more than a little harsh that feels very relevant as we’re all suffering from a little bit of the old fashion stir crazy but suffers from some iffy casting.
Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is running late to work when she has an altercation at a traffic light with a stranger (Russell Crowe) whose life has left him feeling powerless and invisible. Soon, Rachel finds herself and everyone she loves the target of a man who decides to make one last mark upon the world by teaching her a series of deadly lessons. What follows is a dangerous game of cat and mouse that proves you never know just how close you are to someone who is about to become unhinged.
Make no mistake while there’s an obvious line to draw between Unhinged and Falling Down there’s more comparable DNA in this with films like The Hitcher & Duel as it is a straight up horror movie following that kind of logic with a smattering of irony throughout. It’s like a Craig Zahler film without the knowing self awareness, but the real problem is that it could have been great if not for some suspect choices along the way.
Director Derrick Borte has put together a solid and simple frame work of road rage taken to the absolute extreme as the film looks good and has a real flow to it but it almost plays a little too simply at times. It’s a harsh and MEAN film but it never really sets that mood until half way into the film but he successfully ramps up the tension until you’re in the middle of it with nowhere to run.
Carl Ellsworth script knows the story that is trying to tell and even when it leans into some logic gaps that are just whoppers you can’t help but appreciated the commitment to the bit. When the film finally and truly understands the story it wants to be, it goes for it whole hog. And while the obvious social commentary moments are there it all needed to be a little more nuanced rather than clubbing us over the head trying to get its point across.
The film had a lot of good and really relevant elements, but it just lack nuance which came from the miscasting of Russell Crowe in the lead.
He’s fine as a menacing bad guy, but there was no energy and no wit to his performance and while he doesn’t quite have the same name value as Crowe, someone like David Harbour really could have knocked this out of the park. He’s playing it all as fierce and evil when their needed to be a bit of a sly wink and even humor to come off as the broken psychotic who has been pushed over the edge that this man is. He’s just having a bad day and is intent on making sure that these people who have wronged him have an even worse day. It’s all a little too grim until the 3rd act when every character in the story embraces the over the top nature of it all. Caren Pistorius is fine as our heroine opposite him, but we ultimately get so little character development it’s hard to get genuinely invested until it becomes something bordering on satire of the grander point it wants to make.
The film while tonally brutal and visually engaging was trying to have its cake and eat it too. Unhinged wants to make some genuine commentary on the lack of genuine human empathy out there in the world today, while still being a gonzo road rage movie and had it smoothed out some of its rougher edges it could have been the kind of socially relevant horror movie that you can feel it aspiring to be.