Synopsis – After a confrontation with an unstable man at an intersection, a woman becomes the target of his rage.
My Take – If you have gone through the promotional material, one thing I can assure you is that director Derrick Borte‘s latest film is exactly how it looks – an unabashed B film heavily inspired by director Steven Spielberg’s 1971 film, Duel, and a chance for Oscar winner Russell Crowe to play a relentlessly determined behind-the-wheel boogeyman.
Originally garnering headlines for being the first Hollywood film to open widely in America since the corona virus pandemic hit resulting in a shutdown back in March, this 93 minutes study in relentless, senseless and brutal violence is nothing you haven’t seen or heard of before, but does its job by leaving you exhausted and surprisingly entertained till the end credits roll in.
Yes, it requires a certain suspension of belief to intake all the vicious proceedings, however it keeps you invested by constantly increasing the stakes. This is a film that’s devoid of any humor, its mean, lean and never stops shocking, an angry film that really did steer my mind away from real-world problems.
The story follows Rachel (Caren Pistorius), an overwhelmed single mom, who is trying and failing miserably to get her understanding teenager son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) to school on time. Packed with modern-day problems like going through a divorce, unemployment, and trouble with coming up with the money to pay for mother’s stay in a care center, Rachel frustration with her constant bad days are at its peak.
So, when she gets stuck behind a brawny pickup that refuses to budge at a green light, she gives two, long frustrated blasts of her horn and then irritably zips around it. While Tom Cooper (Russell Crowe), the pill-popping, bitterly divorced brute driving the truck, lectures Rachel on the art of the courtesy tap, and demands that she apologize for her conduct, she just refuses.
Unknown to Rachel that just mere hours ago Tom had entered his ex-wife’s house, savagely murdered her and her boyfriend, and left torching the place. And her behavior has done nothing but send Tom spiraling down a dangerous path, who begins to brutally target her family, friends and anyone who comes in his way from showing her what an actual bad day is.
I guess the moral of the story is you never know who you are driving next to, or behind, and you should always err on the side of caution. Had Rachel just smiled and apologized, her day would have gone a lot differently. Because what her actions has resulted isn’t just road rage, but a form of pure, uncontrolled and unadulterated rage from a mentally unstable character who ends up deciding that exacting revenge is better than a mere apology, and he will take it out not on Rachel, but on the people who are most important to her.
Sure, if there is one thing you couldn’t really accuse the film of is being particularly original. There’s elements of ‘Duel’ in the car chase scenes, ‘The Hitcher’ in the torture moments and many other slashers in the conclusion. There are also many times when you won’t agree with the choices that Rachel makes and that can get really frustrating, although I suppose sometimes that’s half the fun with a film like this.
Mainly because this is one of those films where you will be on the edge of your seat and your heart will be pounding. Here, director Derrick Borte has created an extremely volatile dangerous cat and mouse thriller with almost non-stop action and although a tad predictable, it is well worth the watch.
Yes, when it comes to realistically speaking, there is a lot within the film that just doesn’t make sense, and it mostly comes down to how much damage vehicles and people should be taking from collisions and wounds. For example, in the final act of the film there are a number of collisions that would leave most cars inoperable. While the vehicles of background characters are free to be smashed to pieces, Tom’s vehicle never seems to take any damage at all and continues to run as if it were brand new. Similarly, Rachel’s vehicle, one established as hanging on to life by a thread, doesn’t even get as much as scuffed paint even if it is ravaged by repeated fender benders from a vehicle three-times its size.
Then there are the characters, particularly Tom, who seemingly have the physical endurance of a superhuman, unable to be physically damaged by anything or anyone. Sure, he certainly gets wounded throughout the film, but the effects of those wounds seem to be completely ineffective in any capacity.
Regardless, Russell Crowe is absolutely fantastic as the psychotic Tom Cooper. He delivers an extremely menacing performance, creating a genuinely terrifying, yet detestable character. The look in his eyes, so empty and filled with rage at the same time, just reconfirms what a stellar performer he has always been. Thankfully, Caren Pistorius manages to hold her own as the frantic, perpetually late mother, and makes her character root-able even though she make some reckless decisions.
In other roles, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson, Austin P. McKenzie and Juliene Joyner are also good. On the whole, ‘Unhinged’ is an enjoyable intense road rage thriller marred by predictability but uplifted by Russell Crowe‘s scene chewing act.
Directed – Derrick Borte
Rated – R
Run Time – 93 minutes