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Unhinged Review

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Unhinged opens in US theaters on August 21.Unhinged is a formulaic yet mildly engaging B-movie thriller, one fueled by a timely and universally relatable premise and a (better-than-this movie deserves) performance by Russell Crowe as the hotheaded baddie. The power of the movie’s road rage scenario is that it could happen to anyone: you tick…
Unhinged Review

Unhinged opens in US theaters on August 21.Unhinged is a formulaic yet mildly engaging B-movie thriller, one fueled by a timely and universally relatable premise and a (better-than-this movie deserves) performance by Russell Crowe as the hotheaded baddie. The power of the movie’s road rage scenario is that it could happen to anyone: you tick off the wrong person in traffic one day and dangerous consequences ensue, as is what happens here between divorced mom Rachel (Caren Pistorius) and Crowe’s “The Man” (as he’s billed but he’s also referred to at one point as Tom Cooper). It’s that chilling sense of watching something terrifying or violent that could actually transpire in real life that keeps the viewer engrossed even when the threadbare plot and the villain’s next moves become increasingly predictable.The scariest monsters aren’t from another dimension or the underworld; they can be from your own hometown and driving alongside you and having a bad day, just looking for an excuse to snap and punish someone else for their perceived transgression against them. Indeed, the premise of Unhinged will perhaps prove a bit too realistic for some given the amount of lone nut murder sprees these last few years or, indeed, for anyone who’s had their own unnerving run-ins with volatile drivers.But Unhinged really just raises questions, sometimes not even particularly deep ones, about why this sort of behavior happens, scratching the surface of what would make an everyman turn into a boogeyman. And it’s that reluctance to truly dig deeper rather than just focusing on the chase and the punishment the villain wants to mete out against our heroine that keeps Unhinged from being something more special — and Crowe’s intense but not particularly revelatory performance that likely kept Unhinged from becoming another straight-to-video entry buried in a streaming queue or a bargain bin. As his target, Caren Pistorius makes Rachel relatable and sympathetic yet not without her flaws. But, like Tom, there’s also not much depth to her as she’s just there to look worried, angry or scared.Unhinged pitches some brief social commentary about the fury permeating society, about incivility and an inability to apologize, and makes vague asides about think-piece topics like toxic masculinity and white male rage, but it really has nothing insightful to say about any of them that Falling Down didn’t already do (and do better) almost 30 years ago.As a thriller, Unhinged really is structured more like an ‘80s slasher flick but with Crowe as a middle-aged, heavy-set, bitterly depressed and divorced riff on the relentless, masked monster stomping, slamming and slicing his way through victims. There are a few twists and some well-executed chases, but the movie opens with a fiery, truly nasty double murder that makes everything Tom/The Man does next seem slightly less impactful and impressive by comparison despite the sheer brutality he unleashes. It’s the sort of set-piece that other films would usually build to but here it’s a scene the rest of the film just can’t ever top.Unhinged also employs a particularly dopey trick involving a find your phone app at one point that makes the movie feel dated, like a thriller from the Aughts where the emergence of smartphones, iPads and apps beget “eureka!” moments for heroes to outfox their opponents. Now it seems like exactly what it is, a gimmick meant to simply write the characters out of a corner. It only adds to making Unhinged feel like a flick from the past despite its muddled attempts at being relevant.From Negan to Thanos: Villains Who Think They’re SaviorsVerdictRussell Crowe huffs and puffs and blows, er, burns the house down in Unhinged, a by-the-numbers chase film/woman in peril thriller. With any other actor as the menacing lead, Unhinged would have been a TV movie or straight-to-streaming release, but Crowe and a few well-executed scenes of action still manage to hold the viewer’s interest throughout what’s essentially 90 minutes of genre filler material. The movie seems to think it has something deeper to say about society and violence than it does, which is basically just be careful who you piss off in traffic.Read More

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