A ham-fisted shock fest that is exhausting and ridiculous, Unhinged ultimately fails to be either a good moral play or a good grindhouse thriller.
Another “new” release for the cinemas that have managed to open this week comes in the form of the violent thriller Unhinged. Directed by Derrick Borte, and starring Russell Crowe, who looks more like John Goodman these days, this 2020 cat and mouse chiller starts as it means to go on.
The opening scene sees Tom Hunter, played by Crowe, making his way to his ex-family home, with a hammer and a can of petrol. You can probably guess how that ends up playing out.
Meanwhile, single mom Rachel, played by Caren Pistorius, is sleeping in and making a hash of her morning schedule that includes causing her son to be late for school and letting down her morning hairdressing client while arguing with her brother and his girlfriend that have moved into her house that is soon to be handed over to her ex-husband in a subplot that is never spoke of again.
In her desperate rush to get young son Kyle to school, she honks her horn way too aggressively at Crowe, who is stopped at a green light, after murdering his ex-wife, and presumably her new partner, before setting fire to the house. Crowe takes exception to the honking and decides he is going to teach Rachel a lesson, by causing her to have a really bad day.
Initially, things seem to be on track. Crowe is unsettling and genuinely scary as he stalks his prey, however, the real problem is with Pistorius and her unlikeable portrayal of Rachel. Her unsympathetic nature and lack of any real character make it hard for us to care much about her, and the initial sequence of events that escalated very quickly to what can only be described as violent and bloody carnage could all have been avoided quite easily.
Of course, if Rachel had been a bit more polite, the film would not happen, so you would think that the director may have tried a bit harder to make her more charismatic, but as things progress, the mindless and disturbing attacks that Crowe inflicts on all and sundry that fall into her circle of circumstance seems pretty much to be all her fault, and there’s a lot of horror to be seen.
Hit and runs, stabbings, coffee cup beatings, various head traumas, and of course, setting people alight are all visited on any poor sucker that Rachel encounters. By the end of the third reel, things just descend into pantomime, with Crowe and Pistorius in a final standoff that feels more like an 80’s schlock movie than a sideways look at society today.
I’m sure that originally the film was going to make a statement about the way society is desensitized to violence, and aggressive behavior is more a norm than ever before. An opening montage of road rage incidents, mob violence, and car crashes makes me think that there may have been a message in there somewhere, but what we get is a ham-fisted shock fest that is exhausting and ridiculous, and the film ultimately fails to be either a good moral play or a good grindhouse thriller.