“People have so much coming at them, they just can’t handle it." That is one of the opening quotes in Derrick Borte’s latest film starring Russell Crowe as a driver with nasty road rage. The story follows a mother (Caren Pistorius) and son (Gabriel Bateman) who get into a road rage incident with “The Man” played by Russell Crowe. What the mother and son see as a simple incident of road rage, becomes something much more sinister. While that sounds like horror meets thriller, what we get is something different entirely.
In one of the film's first scenes involving Crowe’s character, Borte shows that he is essentially a supervillain. After that description, if you’re not on board you might as well stop reading now. The reason I say that is due to “Unhinged” being best thought of as something that would play right in the middle of July in the mid ’90s. It is a movie designed to have moments for an audience to gasp, laugh and lunge fists in the air at a comeback by the protagonist. That may not be everyone’s cup of tea, though for me personally it hit a note as a film fan that I haven’t had in a while. There is something when a film is “knowing” which essentially means the talent in front of and behind the camera knows the type of film they’re making.
That knowingness makes for a film that locks its audience in for its tightly paced 93-minute runtime. No matter the ludicrous events that occur in the story, there’s a certain amount of nostalgia that “Unhinged” offers. My only real (and somewhat obvious) gripe with the film is that no other character besides Crowe makes an impression. That’s certainly nothing against Pistorius or Bateman and the cast around them, it’s just easy to tell who’s film this really is. Granted where the film succeeds with tone, it struggles with ideas. Having things to say about “road rage culture” halt the fun that can be had. Such a tightrope act can be pulled off, it’s just unfortunate that in “Unhinged” one side is better than the other. When you have an actor as capable as Crowe at the helm, the job of entertainment isn’t that hard to accomplish.
There are a lot of unique thoughts and ideas sprinkled throughout “Unhinged” and its 93-minute runtime. It’s just that those are the elements that the film struggles with throughout. When the grindhouse-esque nature kicks in, it makes it a thoroughly entertaining watch from start to finish. Sometimes when it comes to a film like this, all you really need is a performance that will lock you in. It’s not hard to get yourself hooked when watching a film with an actor like Russell Crowe. I also want to give a special thanks to Solstice Studios for allowing me to check out this early screener. “Unhinged” is being released theatrically on the Aug. 21, but if possible I recommend seeing it at a drive-in. That is where a film like this will thrive.
Watch the film's trailer here.