Oscar winners Unhinged aren’t Confined to Oscar-worthy projects. Obviously, Russell Crowe is effective at delivering smolder and gravitas to awards-friendly epics such as Gladiator, Les Miserables, and A gorgeous Mind. But he’s also able — and quite frequently willing — to allow loose in border testing genre fare, make it a Generic Monsters reboot (at The Mummy), a superhero origin story (Man of Steel), or a giddy and subversive period crime comedy (The Nice Men ).
Basically, Crowe Avoids being pigeonholed by staying unpredictable, so it is both surprising and not very surprising to find him playing with a menacing brute behind the wheel of a gnarly pickup truck in Derrick Borte’s ruthless Unhinged. Credited only as The Man, Crowe sets his sights on an unsuspecting single mother (Caren Pistorius) after she pisses him off in traffic. What follows is a loud, dumb, but tense-as-hell horror story that is pure, unapologetic pulp and exactly what we will need to shake us out of the present, stagnant theatrical stasis.
Russell Crowe is Off-the-rails extreme in Unhinged.
Borte’s lead character is angry. He begins the movie attacking the house of people we presume he understands (and actually, really hates). And the second that Rachel (Pistorius) inadvertently gets beneath The Man’s skin, he spends the remainder of his time unleashing imbalanced, violent justice against her son, her lawyer, an innocent man who sticks up for her at a gas station — basically, anyone who makes the mistake of getting in his way.
Unhinged Official Trailer
And Crowe sells it. Like, actually sells it. He adopts a strange drawl and packs on pounds, giving him an intimidating physical heft that brings weight (pun intended) to his menace. He’s imposing. He’s terrifying, whether swaying Jimmi Simpson’s head against a diner table or growling into a cellphone to keep Rachel on her heels.
Borte’s best choice, Beyond casting Crowe, is placing him into a potent truck that rumbles, roars and rips through adversaries like the shark at Jaws. But Unhinged is mean and cynical in manners that Jaws or even Duel were not, which makes it quite relevant to our competitive time.
Unhinged is Suspenseful, but is not very smart.
Therefore, credit goes to Derrick Borte for being able to exude real tension with his or her art. There are multiples times during Unhinged once the film made me squirm in my seat, jump following an abrupt gut punch, or chatter on the screen because a character was going to make a bad choice. Unhinged successfully simplifies dread. From the opening montage, the movie paints a dire picture of where we are as a society — angry, aggressive, on edge, and prone to violence.
The Man is a byproduct
If only Carl Ellsworth’s script maintained up with the jabs landed by Crowe and his manager. Unhinged isn’t the smartest movie in the crowd. As frequently as you will wince due to a physical jolt, you will also groan because of an impossible plot contrivance that should happen to keep the bloody cat-and-mouse charade between Rachel and The Man moving. Unhinged would likely fall apart if you stopped for one moment and contemplated the validity of these actions on screen. Borte doesn’t permit for such introspection, however, you will notice how cardboard thin the characters are, and just how inane the plot twists prove to be.
But you aren’t Entering Unhinged anticipating an Oscar competition, despite its own Oscar-winning lead. It is pulp. Pretty well made.