Oscar winner Russell Crowe goes full-bore as “The Man” in this simple minded, rather violent action thriller. Sadly, Unhinged is the first studio film to open with a wide release on the silver screen since the COVID-19 shutdown nearly five months ago.
With a tagline of ‘he can happen to anyone’ there’s little thematic resonance to uncover in what is pretty ghastly almost like slasher horror after an always late single stressed out mother Rachel (Caren Pistorius) doesn’t return an apology to a burly, sweaty sort after honking her horn at him at an off-ramp light.
The brute must teach her a lesson after offing his ex and sending up her home in flames in a prologue. Everyone around Rachel now is imperiled including silly brother (Austin P. McKenzie) and his girlfriend (Juliene Joyner).
A contrived script works off an inability to lock a smartphone to greatly assist an inevitable rampage fueled by mental issue, albeit with a ‘Jigsaw’ mentality to ratchet up the appalling. Not to mention a pervading nihilism.
It’s a chance for director Derrick Borte (The Joneses) to rig a series of nasty set-pieces with vehicular-imposed mayhem. Certain cineastes will get a change out of smash-ups and maybe ensuing lurid, gratuitous interludes. But, actually none of it is suspenseful with Crowe hardly etching out any virtuosity as a bloated maniac with nary a surprise. You might be thinking if Mel Gibson would have taken this kind of role back in the not so distant past.
Amid what may be a cousin to films like Duel, Joy Ride or Breakdown, but not Falling Down with Michael Douglas on the streets of Los Angeles expressing white-collar rage there is an undeniable intensity difficult to accept. Even if Rachel appears to make appropriate decisions and strategizing with a bright teenage son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman). Under duress as an overwhelmed mother Pistorius elicits a bit of sympathy as a women dealing with separate and mother transferred to assisted-living.
A mindless road-rage exercise might be an adrenaline shot of escapism but mostly is a descending exhibition of sadism that Crowe intentionally maximizes like a pill-popping gladiator just going through the motions.