After a confrontation with an unstable man at an intersection, a woman becomes the target of his rage.
Release Date: 2020 | Runtime: 1hr 30min | Genre: Thriller | Source: Theatre
Hey so I went to a movie theatre last week! It was weird. Nobody checked my ticket, a series of people behind glass handed out various snacks and of course everyone in the theatre itself (all six of us) were spaced very far apart (which was great). All the trailers were for movies that should have already come out and the CEO appeared in a video to thank us for coming out. It was cool to be back in a theatre, but it was certainly strange. It was especially strange that I went to a theatre to see a new Russel Crowe thriller on opening night that in normal circumstances would have been an at home rental that I would have watched over two nights, having fallen asleep halfway through on night one. I wanted to support theatres and new releases so you’re welcome Hollywood! Here’s your Unhinged money!
Crowe plays Tom, who in the opening moments of the film, smashes his way into a house where he murders his ex-wife and her lover and sets the house on fire. Later that morning, Rachel (Caren Pistorius) encounters Tom at an intersection. Rachel is having a particularly bad morning so when Tom fails to drive when the light turns green, she repeatedly lays on her horn to get him to move. Tom pulls up next to her at the next light, asks why she didn’t instead give him a courtesy tap, and demands an apology. Rachel refuses and from there, Tom swears to teach her the meaning of having a bad day. Mostly this involves murder and tailgating, two of my biggest pet peeves.
The opening credits of the movie bluntly put forward a message that society is angrier than ever and that it doesn’t take much for people to snap and unleash that anger towards others. Or become “unhinged” if you will. It’s a timely message but I don’t think the movie itself delivers on that concept. The marketing and the opening wants us to think that this could happen to us, that everyone is so angry we might end up with a crazy person on our hands over a minor road incident. The idea falls apart immediately because we already know Tom is not a regular person who snaps. He just killed two people earlier that morning! The chances that one of us are going to bump into a recent double murderer on the road are very slim. By that rational, damn near every movie plot “could happen to you!” Sure, the chances are small that you may end up on Mars and have to grow potatoes in your own poop, but it’s not impossible! Who are you to say that a burned up man won’t stalk you in your nightmare but maybe you can fight back because you have dope dream powers? Two examples seems like plenty.
Crowe is easily the highlight of the movie. He could treat this movie as a paycheck but he fully commits. Tom certainly isn’t a fleshed out villain but he’s a good one because he makes it very clear that he can’t be reasoned with. His singular focus is to terrorize Rachel and he cannot be deterred from that goal. He also doesn’t give a shit about getting caught. He fully accepts this day is likely his last and is not shy about committing all of his deeds in broad daylight. I also appreciate that Rachel doesn’t have to spend much time convincing the police that this guy is after her as they become aware of him quite early. They’re very, VERY, bad at stopping him, but they know about him.
The problem is the movie that surrounds this villain is…fine. It’s the toughest kind of movie to write about because it provides adequate entertainment without doing anything too memorable or offensively bad. It’s only a few days later and I’m having trouble with the specifics. There are some suspenseful scenes, particularly one where Tom meets Rachel’s best friend at a diner and the friend has no idea that Tom is in a stabby mood. There’s also some well shot car chases and vehicular mayhem. There’s just not much to get excited about. The first half of the movie is exposition heavy but it does a solid job of setting things up. Then the back half falls victim to standard thriller movie tropes and starts to resemble a silly slasher movie more than a gritty thriller.
Rachel is a bland protagonist. We feel for her because the movie lists out all the problems she’s encountering (we aren’t dealing with subtly here as mentioned) and because nobody should have to deal with a crazy person going through her phone contacts and deciding who gets killed. But that’s it. She handles herself well at least and doesn’t always make the silliest decision. There are other characters around her that also exist. …That’s the most I can say about them. Some die, some don’t. You will only slightly care.
Unhinged feels like a movie that could have come out in 2003. It’s a very stripped down thriller that is elevated by Russel Crowe but follows a very predictable path from A to Z. You don’t need to brave a theatre visit for this one. You can watch it on a rainy Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing else to do, as I’m sure most of us would have done in the original 2020 timeline.