Everyone has a short fuse lately, but none may be shorter than Russell Crowe’s in Unhinged, the relentless new horror film from director Derrick Borte which opens August 21 in some theaters. Yes, theaters! You’ll have to check the local listings in your state.
Made before the pandemic, Unhinged is perfectly timed to society’s current mood. Whereas Michael Douglas took out his aggression against the world socially in Falling Down (1993), the even crazier Russell Crowe puts his on one woman, a stranger named Rachel (Caren Pistorius), who in a fit of micro-rage honks at him at a stoplight.
That simple act sets in motion a series of horrific events that don’t stop until just before the credits roll.
Rachel is not having a good day herself. She’s late for work which makes her son late for school and she’s currently going through a stressful divorce while dealing with her mother who is in a care facility due to dementia.
Enter divorcee Crowe, who is simply billed as the “Man.” He is also under strain, but being a psycho with a death wish deals with his ex-wife using a sledgehammer and a match in the film’s opening scene.
When Rachel unloads her stress through a series of aforementioned harmless honks at Crowe’s expense the next day, he, well, becomes unhinged.
The rest of the movie is a non-stop horror action thriller that’s not afraid to take risks, and before you can even think about a plot hole moves quickly to the next scenario more disturbing than the previous.
If movies could have blood pressures Unhinged would be just short of a heart attack. The vehicular chase scenes which usually end up in metal carnage are spectacular; the broadside jump scare has never been used more effectively.
Crowe’s performance is a bit hammy, but that only enhances his villainous nature. The Academy-Award winner speaks with intent and confidence which sells it. His motivation seems to be to teach Rachel a lesson about honest apologies since she refused to give him one for the stoplight incident.
Unafraid of “suicide by police,” he’s ready to kill for his sliding-scale morality, and that intensity drives this nerve-fraying movie until Keep Shelly in Athens’ cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays on the final fade out. Crowe gets under your skin.
Caren Pistorius’ performance is nothing short of astonishing. Tearful but stoic, she gives Rachel a headstrong personality but makes her flawed in that she is always late to something.
She hates this weakness so much that if it weren’t for the level-headedness of her young teenage son (Gabriel Bateman), she would snap herself.
In some ways her pursuer is giving her the strength to face herself and show up to her own life, but it all comes at a bloody cost in a very sick game of cat and mouse.
Unhinged is not a perfect movie by any means. There are logical decisions that any person in Rachel’s situation would have made in the real world. But this, of course, is Hollywood where final girls run up the stairs in a haunted house instead of out the front door.
Borte seems to know that this far-fetched idea is all fantasy, but his pace is so furious and the performances are so damned great there is never a good time to reflect on the rationality of the plot.
The film’s editors, Michael McCusker, Steve Mirkovich, and Tim Mirkovich are due some high praise here. Pulse-pounding and persistent, they’ve cut Brendan Glavin’s sweeping cinematography into a white-knuckle tour-de-force. Couple this with an equally fever-pitch score by David Buckley and you’ve got a satisfying sleeper worthy of your stimulus dollar.
What Unhinged lacks in feasibility it makes up for in gut-wrenching entertainment. With great performances, jaw-dropping stunts, and surprising gore, Unhinged packs a high-octane punch reminding us of how hectic our lives were even before COVID became a household name.
We talked to director Derrick Borte about Unhinged. You can read that by clicking HERE.