Unhinged – Review

Movies such as Falling Down, Joker, and Changing Lanes all depict a man on the edge who suffers a crisis due to the society and personal problems. They commit violent and heinous acts because of increasing pressures or family strife.

Unhinged is the latest on those trio of movies.

Directed by Derrick Borte, the film revolves around Rachel, a stressed women going through a problematic divorce and trying to look after her son. On the school run, she honks impatiently at a driver ahead. Unfortunately, the car contains Tom Cooper who is mentally, well, unhinged. After failing to reconcile at the traffic stop, Cooper soon pursues Rachel in a bloody, vengeful ride. Can Rachel escape his clasp?

Russell Crowe is definitely an intimidating character. As Cooper, his hulking body rages along highways and smashes through   At the beginning, his already unravelled mind and calm manner are chilling. Worming his way into Rachel’s life, picking at the threads and murdering so coolly, Crowe is an effective villain.

The problem is as he careens further and further into his anger, frothing through gritted teeth and ramping up the violence, Crowe becomes more of a caricature. His character has nothing but this menacing madness. After an hour of this venomous violence, you haven’t really explored the rest of his character enough. See you get that this is a man who feels as though he has been let down by the system but, without seeing any good character development or backstory, he becomes his own problem.

Russell Crowe's perfect portrait of angry man in road rage thriller Unhinged

If it were the point to make him angry and murderous with no reason or rhyme, then make him completely blank like Rutger Hauer’s terrifying John Ryder in The Hitcher. However, if you’d like to feel somewhat sorry for him then there should’ve been more substance to Cooper. The film does neither of these things and eventually, it becomes repetitive and somewhat dull. The worst of this is the pills he keeps popping to make the viewer aware that this is a mentally ill person. This serves no purpose other than to stigmatise those who are ill.

The other problem is Rachel. Now, I am not saying that the performance is bad: Actress Caren Pistorius is an effective performer. As the lead character who simply honked at the wrong person, Pistorious is great – covered in sweat and panic, she is drenched with fear for her own life and that of her sons. But her plight never feels elevated more than stressed woman pursued by angry man. It is annoying that these characters feel so one dimensional that you aren’t fully invested in the film.

At some points it careens from the realism and plunges into the silly. Car chases and crashes are so heavily over the top that it feels absurdly ridiculous. That said, they are a lot of fun to watch.

Unhinged sadly does not produce the thrills and chills enough to be an effective thriller. It would’ve done a lot better to ramp up the entertainment such as the quips and the excessive violence.  By trying to steep this entirely in realism, it effectively loses its edge.

It’s almost as though the filmmakers were fearful of becoming too Unhinged themselves, stalling at the very title themselves.

Unhinged is out DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital! 

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