PG Score: 6.75/10
Unhinged is a chaotic, mindless, and brutal thrill ride that never takes its foot off the gas. It is a real guilty pleasure to watch Russell Crowe wholly commit to the role of a full-blown psychopath with nothing to lose. The film does not take itself too seriously and in order to best enjoy it, neither should the viewer.
The premise is appropriately simple in centering on a volatile and unstable man (Crowe) as he terrorizes a struggling mother named Rachel (Caren Pistorius) after a traffic altercation. The opening credits show a montage of various real-life road rage incidents. Director Derrick Borte (The Joneses and American Dreamer) makes it abundantly clear that this relatively common occurrence will be the sole focus of Unhinged, albeit to the wildly extreme end of the spectrum.
Unhinged immediately makes its messaging crystal clear to the viewer that this is not a thinking man’s movie. It’s not complex or ambiguous in any way, shape, or form. In truth, it does not need to be, as this is the definition of a popcorn flick. It is lurid to a borderline alarming degree, and it is best to go in with the expectation to turn the brain off for 90 minutes. Borte gets right into the action and makes good use of the lean runtime to keep this train of terror rolling. If there’s one thing Unhinged excels in, it is pacing.
There is one reason above all else to take a trip to the theater for this one: Russell Crowe. His performance as a bloodthirsty maniac is undeniably entertaining. Aptly credited as simply “The Man," his backstory is limited to one grisly opening scene and a handful of news reports throughout the course of the film. He is thoroughly convincing as a sadistic villain who is unhindered by any semblance of a moral code.
While the writing leaves much to be desired, Crowe has a few one-liners that are bound to be crowd pleasers. His character’s hulking appearance coupled with his excessively hostile demeanor properly fuel the rampage that he inflicts on Rachel and anyone else that crosses his path...and I mean anyone.
Nobody on screen is safe, and the wake of destruction he leaves is massive. From vehicular mayhem to frenetic fisticuffs, the big baddie does not discriminate. The special effects during the car chase sequences are impressive and feature a few hard-hitting moments that make up the highlights of Unhinged. In respect to the action taking place outside of the vehicle, the carnage can be difficult to stomach at times as the movie takes a selectively unabashed approach to ultra-violence. It is neither constant nor gratuitous, but when it does occur, you feel it.
The film certainly has its flaws. For one, the dialogue is laughable more often than not. Even for a movie that is not meant to be taken seriously, there has to be some version of a line and Unhinged leaps well over that right out of the gate. Granted, this occasionally works to its benefit as some of Crowe’s lines are so ridiculous that they’re actually amusing.
The same does not apply to many of the other exchanges from Rachel and her son, Kyle (Gabriel Bateman). Their conversations are frequently silly and really detract from much of the momentum. Another glaring negative is the suspect acting and underwhelming characters played by Caren Pistorius and Gabriel Bateman. Many of their reactions to the ongoing chaos lack believability and they’re much too casual about all the loss of life, which fails to convey genuine terror in the face of true evil. This is equal parts ineffectively written characters and mediocre acting.
Unhinged is a decent action-thriller that’s carried by a satisfyingly sinister performance from Russell Crowe. It will not win any awards, but this road rage romp is still worth venturing back to the theater for. Just make sure to obey the rules of the road on the way there.
PG Score: 6.75/10
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