'Unhinged' Movie Review
Russell Crowe Fightin' Around the World
In Unhinged, struggling single mom Rachel (Caren Pistorius) just can't catch a break. Her ex seems to have the better divorce lawyer, she's always running late, her career is slipping, and her day is only about to get worse. When she takes a detour to try to get her son (Gabriel Bateman) to school on time, she has a little road rage altercation with a disgruntled driver (Russell Crowe). Little does she know, this man has nothing left to lose, and he decides to stalk her, leaving a trail of destruction in his path.
I’m the kind of movie buff who judges a movie based on what it’s intended to be. If a film has noticeably grand ambitions, I’ll treat it as such. However, if a movie wants to be a simple, straightforward b-movie, I’ll simply view it for what it is, and Unhinged is just that type of movie. It’s purely a genre movie, and it does a good job. The tension is always present, and the action is well-executed. There were several times where I physically tensed up totally without realizing. It blurs the line between action and horror pretty smoothly.
I love when A-list actors headline crazy pulp movies, like Kurt Russell in Death Proof or Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant. You can tell that they’re having fun embracing the ludicrousness and chewing the scenery. Russell Crowe in Unhinged is no exception. He goes all-in. I was actually really surprised how little I recognized him. He truly disappears into the role. His voice is different, but it still sounds very natural, and he's a good bit heavier. Every now and then, he’ll make a face that reminds you that it’s Crowe, but for the most part, he’s entirely lost in the character. Caren Pistorius, who is still a relative unknown, does a good job playing the typical "final girl" of the film. She didn't blow me away the way Crowe did, but she delivered a solid performance. None of the cast is poor by any stretch. They're just all overshadowed by Crowe's insanity.
Many people are probably going to recognize the obvious similarities to Steven Spielberg's Duel, but this is a much more brutal film. We get plenty of time outside of the cars, including a finale reminiscent of the ending of The Shining, and these scenes are where we really get to see the slasher aspect of the film. Crowe's character often feels more like a force of nature than a man, adding to said vibe. There is also a great deal of vehicular destruction in the movie, and it's really fun to watch.
In any movie of this nature, people are inevitably going to point out the poor decision-making of the protagonist(s), and it isn’t very hard to do that with Unhinged. But, and this is just me, I’ve always been a bit more lenient about this than other critics, mostly because people in real life make stupid decisions. Deciding against calling the police when being pursued is stupid, yes, but not unrealistic. So things like that don’t bother me quite so much. I really only have one major complaint about the movie, but it’s barely even related to the actual movie itself. During the end credits, they play a god-awful breathy pop cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. This kind of makes you leave the theater with a slightly bitter taste in your mouth, but again, one can’t really fault the film too much for that.
Unhinged is a modern pulp movie that doesn’t demand much of its audience, and will likely satisfy most fans of grindhouse cinema. Russell Crowe is nearly unrecognizable as the villain, and he makes the most of his limited depth. With plenty of gruesome carnage and heart-stopping suspense, this is a taut blend of action and horror that viewers willing to accept its silliness will eat up.