Directed by Derrick Borte.
Starring Russell Crowe, Gabriel Bateman, Caren Pistorius, Anne Leighton, Jimmi Simpson, Lucy Faust, and Austin P. McKenzie.
After a confrontation with an unstable man at an intersection, a woman becomes the target of his rage.
Unhinged opens with a sequence properly demonstrating that Russell Crowe’s nameless psychopath is just that, but the introduction actually accomplishes more. The Man is seen burning down a house where it’s unclear who the victims are. They could be people from his past or the very people he is stalking throughout the film, and it’s that ambiguity that keeps this relatively simple action thriller tense and with urgency. Not to mention, it adds a layer of mystery and intrigue to this beyond unstable killer.
Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is a single mom currently finalizing a divorce, dealing with her mother’s worsening health, and generally overworked and stressed from dealing with clients and trying to get her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) to school on time. The youngster is not having an easy time either; his father keeps breaking promises and he’s really getting tired of receiving detentions for being late to school through no fault of his own. They also happen to be living with Rachel’s brother Fred (Austin P. McKenzie) and his fiancée to make life easier for everyone.
Director Derrick Borte and writer Carl Ellsworth tell us all we really need to know about these characters over a hurried breakfast, slowly building tension as Rachel drives Kyle to school. At first, the problems are the highly relatable rush-hour traffic (I feel like the first 20 minutes of this movie is actually just about me trying to make some Chicago press screenings on time due to living outside the city), and then Rachel’s top client (I guess she is some kind of assistant to people) decides to relieve her of her services since she is going to be late again. More concerning, they have a verbal altercation with Russell Crowe’s The Man who also happens to be on the road, and who also feels disrespected by Rachel.
From there, this dangerous and physically intimidating nutjob develops an obsession, following Rachel around and quickly resorting to vile harassment and violence. Essentially, he gets a hold of her phone while leaving her a burner replacement, periodically calling her to have her choose names out of her contacts for him to murder all as he also goes around murdering everyone from Rachel’s lawyer to her relatives. It’s nasty and mean-spirited stuff, but there’s also a satirical edge to the proceedings as Russell Crowe gets to go on hilarious rants about how hard men have it now. This is something that the film definitely could have used more of given how outrageous Russell Crowe delivers some of the tirades, but where the film lacks in characterization and making good on social commentary it makes up with effective action sequences and just enough thrills to slide by with a recommendation without overstaying its welcome.
It also helps that Caren Pistorius and Gabriel Bateman are serviceable performers themselves when it comes to selling the fear and trauma this lunatic is inflicting on them. Yes, the plot of this movie is wholly contrived and ludicrously stupid, and even the protagonists make the occasional stupid choice, but the spectacle part of it all is well-constructed building to an exciting finale. Russell Crowe is clearly having a blast channeling his inner Michael Douglas, and it allows for Unhinged to simply come across fun. It’s a movie that knows it’s stupid and embraces that wholeheartedly, most prominent when the characters decide to employ tactics from Fortnite to even the playing field against The Man. For the first theatrical release since a global pandemic shut everything down, fun is enough for right now but even judging the movie in a vacuum, it’s worth a look for action junkies.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com