The world is on fire. People are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore. Everywhere you look these days, there’s news of someone flying off the rails, at the slightest provocation. The new thriller Unhinged believes this is the best time to cash- that fear. The opening credits show various instances of road rage. At the same time rattling off a garden variety lists for people snapping. The problem is, as presented in the film, Russell Crowe’s The Man has already lost it. The cold open is him literally going off the deep end. He’s already had that break and the supposed cathartic (but homicidal) release that follows. Making everything that follows come off as utter nonsense. A thought that may have never occurred to anyone making this confounding time at the movies.
Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is in the middle of a no good very bad year. She’s going through a messy divorce. Her mom has recently been moved into an assisted living home. Not only has she recently lost her salon business, but her high value client just fired her. She’s rushing to get her son, Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) to school as fast as she can, so he doesn’t get detention. Just when it seems like things couldn’t get worse, she makes the wrong rash judgement call. One that upends her entire world and hell followed with him.
Before dovetailing into the rest of the review, it’s good to point out that Pistorius is doing the best with the material handed to her. The majority of the time unfortunately that’s merely asking her to look shocked or scared. It’s only slightly less than the grunting and wheezing Crowe is told to do. These are the thinnest of characterizations imaginable, in a story where relating to people matters. As backhanded as that compliment may be, Pistorius and Crowe are trying. And that commendable, given that surrounding events aren’t worthy of the commitment they’re making.
One of the main problems with Unhinged is just how unfairly it stacks the scale. Two people are shown at their wit’s end. One reacts by murdering people. In the opening frames, no less. The other “rudely” honks at a man who sits at an intervention, for an entire light, when having her world implode. Impatient? Sure. The man “apologizes”, hoping for a reciprocation. When that doesn’t come (and a slight shouting match ensues), he overreacts. Actually that may be an oversimplification. That’s when the film goes all cockeyed and Crowe enacts a revenge not only totally boneheaded, but with a menace that constantly boxers on cartoony. Anyone and everyone Rachel comes into contact with hereafter, becomes a target. Either because they attempt to help her, know her or enough time has passed that the movie decrees someone needs to die.
Underneath it all, both writer Carl Ellsworth and director Derrick Borte seem to be working under the assumption they’re laying out a screed. Yet, to what end is the confusing part. Disparate ideas are tossed out and never fully coalesce. Crowe kills with what appears to be some skewed code of honor. Righting wrongs he perceives to see. Showing the world what the meaning of having a “bad day” truly is. All while he’s being hunted for manslaughter and arson. He’s clearly a bad guy, even as events stop continually for him to spout about how terrible people are. Are viewers supposed to sympathize with his plight, even as he carves up half the (Rachel-related) city?
Logic is one thing that never really comes into play, during the staggeringly plodding 90 minute runtime. Crowe escalates from simple stalking and road raging, to straight-up demon. One who occasionally plays games of chance, just to keep teaching Rachel “lessons”. Increasingly escalating and mean-spirited “lessons”, just to give the proceedings a body count. Again, why? Nobody knows. There’s an avenue where Unhinged works. One that paints a picture of the world gone mad and the little average individual attempting not to be crushed under the weight. That film would be Falling Down. Unhinged is not Falling Down. It’s merely a loud, brash, boneheaded and exhausting film.
Unhinged lives up to its title, but not in a way that’s at all inspiring. Instead calling to mind a rickety contraption that’s more than likely to accidentally kill innocent bystanders. Jumping from tone to tone, kill to kill without much rhyme or reason, Unhinged is all Crowe and fury, signifying nothing. It’s shot well, acted decently and feature quick beats of vehicular carnage. Yet it will test your patience, every moment it’s up on the screen. Swerve your car off the road (while signalling before hand) and avoid this one, at all costs.