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Unhinged (2020) Movie Review


By Diresh SheridPublished 3 months ago 3 min read
48% Rotten Tomatoes | 6/10 IMDb

The movie "Unhinged" takes place in an unnamed state where license plates read "America's Heartland." This suggests that the events of the film could happen anywhere, even in seemingly safe and secure parts of the country. The opening titles show a montage of traffic jams, car crashes, riots, and random violence, accompanied by talk radio reports of job losses, general despair, and woefully underfunded and understaffed police forces. This sets the stage for the mayhem that follows and portrays a world where people must protect themselves.

The script, written by Carl Ellsworth ("Disturbia," "The Last House on the Left"), exploits the malaise that blankets the nation for cheap and gory B-movie jolts. Instead of exploring legitimate feelings of disenfranchisement throughout the United States, the movie wallows in fears and frustrations in a tawdry fashion. It suggests that people should be mistrustful of their neighbors and shows how a minor conflict at a traffic light can lead to an all-day road-rage chase with multiple bloody bodies in its wake.

Russell Crowe plays the chaos agent driving this paranoid pursuit, known only as "The Man." He is mind-bogglingly overqualified to play this thinly drawn character. The few pleasures "Unhinged" offers come from the highs and lows he manages to maneuver. Crowe's character is subtly menacing at first but eventually reveals himself to be impossibly indestructible. The target of his fury is a harried hairdresser named Rachel, played by Caren Pistorius, a single mom who's already having a rough morning by the time she clashes with The Man.

Rachel is running late, as usual, and is dashing out the door to drive her tween son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) to school but finds herself trapped in traffic no matter where she turns. Between squabbling with her ex and losing her best client, she's in an understandably foul mood when she gets stuck behind The Man, and perhaps lays on the horn of her beat-up Volvo station wagon a bit too heavily when he refuses to go on a green light.

However, Rachel doesn't know what the audience knows about The Man from the film's fiery prologue: he's having a worse morning than she is, and he's dangerous. The bulk of "Unhinged" finds The Man stalking and terrorizing Rachel and everyone dear to her, including her best friend/divorce lawyer (Jimmi Simpson) in one particularly tense scene at a coffee shop.

Despite moments like that, which director Derrick Borte executes effectively, the audience is mostly left with the icky feeling that they're expected to sympathize with The Man for snapping. He's been dealt a bad hand. Who could blame him, right? "Unhinged" appears to believe that fundamentally, he's not wrong, although he's unleashing his anger in an extreme manner. This becomes an increasingly untenable position, though, as Crowe's character grows more brazen, and the death count rises.

The way The Man physically brutalizes Rachel and her young son is especially gratuitous, although it does result in a shocking act of violence that might best be described as Chekhov's haircutting scissors. Pistorius does solid work throughout in expressing various states of panic, but she's mainly reacting to Crowe's improbable omnipresence.

In conclusion, "Unhinged" presents a story of a man who goes on a violent rampage after being provoked by a minor traffic incident. While the film tries to tap into the current sense of unrest and disillusionment in the country, it ultimately fails to offer any meaningful commentary on these issues. Instead, it wallows in gratuitous violence and cheap thrills, making it a forgettable and morally questionable B-movie.


About the Creator

Diresh Sherid

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