UNHINGED – Review by Liz Braun

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Having Russell Crowe play the heavy in a violent cheesefest about road rage is a perfect fit.
What he brings with him to the role of vengeful psycho are all those real-life public donnybrooks and temper tantrums; what a boon to the willing suspension of disbelief.

It’s easy to buy him as a villain. He’s pre-feared, as it were, a useful word we’ve just now made up. Unhinged is directed by Derrick Borte and is essentially 90 minutes of Crowe tearing around in a huge pickup truck, glaring and grunting and chasing a terrified woman in a station wagon. The pursuit creates havoc on the roads and multiple vehicle pile-ups, and there are stops along the way so he can brutally kill people.

The movie hints that it has important things to say about modern America but — naw. What it does have are car crash scenes and bloody murders.

It’s too bad spectacular road wrecks and bits of in-your-face heinous violence aren’t really enough to overcome lack of character development or an insidious message about how women ought to behave.

The movie opens with scenes of domestic carnage, leaving no doubt that our central male figure has snapped.

Why? The camera will help you here, lingering on his wedding ring as he takes it off and discards it, embracing the exterior of the family home he can no longer enter, nudging you to notice the For Sale sign on the house, closing in on our guy taking prescription meds, moodily lighting matches, resignedly grasping a claw hammer and picking up a can of
gasoline…

Golly! Whatever will happen next?

(The visual underlining, alas, continues throughout Unhinged, leaving every clue, twist and plot device exposed in advance; this is just the movie for anyone disinclined to pay attention to what’s going on.)

The hulking ball of disillusioned fury played by Crowe encounters a young woman named Rachel (Caren Pistorius) at a traffic stop, and the story kicks into action. Rachel leans on the horn when Angry Guy doesn’t move on a green light fast enough; minutes later, she refuses to apologize for honking when he gives her the opportunity.Rachel is late, harried, unreliable, disorganized and apparently incapable of getting her child to school on time; there’s something vaguely off-putting about her. You never entirely root for Rachel, and that prevents a viewer from ever fully investing in the action.

During the initial confrontation with angry guy, Rachel’s adolescent son is in the back seat of her car. He’s frightened, and urges his mom to be conciliatory.

Rachel refuses to back down. And why the hell should she? Most women have had a bellyful of making nice to defuse toxic masculinity. Enough, already. She tells angry guy she’s having a really bad day.

Angry guy vows to show her what a really bad day looks like. After that, a lot of people find themselves dead, and via the sort of violence that leaves a viewer gasping and recoiling in
her chair.

Unhinged features an opening montage of news clips that show urban life at its worst, all lawlessness, crime, social upheaval and violence. Here are snippets of snarled traffic and grotesque car accidents, news of job loss and economic hardship and images of despair, desolation, volcanic anger. The world is a mess! No wonder people are losing their
minds!

The suggestion is that Unhinged will examine all the chaos and alienation available in contemporary life, but that never happens. Instead, we get a good look at an ordinary guy who hates ordinary women in that ordinary way, only with crazed results.

Crowe’s character is furious when Rachel spurns his generous offer to let her apologize to him.
He kills people to show her that, as he says, her actions have consequences — kind of extreme mansplaining, we must say.

Eventually, to make this raging maniac stop, Rachel has to respond in kind with intense violence, reducing her to his level.

Unhinged is not unwatchable, but that whiff of anti-feminism makes it unpleasant. Feel free to ignore the marketing malarkey about this being the right movie — it isn’t —and the
right time — not on your life —to return to theatres.

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Liz Braun

Liz Braun

Liz Braun is a film critic for the Sun Media newspaper chain in Canada.