Unhinged (2020)

Unhinged (2020) Cover

March 10, 2020 was the last date I attended an early screening at a theater and that was for both The Hunt and Bloodshot. Solstice Studios is the first studio to invite press to an in-person screening, hoping to bring attention to their latest thriller, Unhinged. Out of an abundance of caution, I decided to stay home and view the online screener offered to press from the safety of my living room. While Unhinged is viscerally entertaining due to an unstoppable psycho-violent performance by Russell Crow, it loses momentum halfway through the film, as it has no new substance to offer after its intriguing setup. However, it will be a guilty pleasure for those who enjoy seeing a violent cat-and-mouse chase. 

Rachel Hunter (Caren Pistorius) is a recently divorced single mother who one day wakes up late and is rushing to get her son, Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) to school on time. While at a stop-light Rachel frustratingly decides to honk at a stranger (Russell Crowe) in a giant truck who does not proceed to drive when the light turns green. Rachel will soon deeply regret her action. After dropping her son off at school, the deranged man begins to follow Rachel, stopping at nothing in an attempt to ruin her life and kill those whom she loves.

Director Derrick Borte and writer Carl Ellsworth do a fantastic job at the initial setup, which is indisputably the most interesting part of this film. We quickly learn the type of person that Crowe’s unstable character is by seeing him angrily depressed in his car, which leads him to do the unimaginable to those that have wronged him. This opening scene involving an intense over-the-top house explosion shows the type of volcanic and vile behavior his character is capable of, making him an interestingly unpredictable and fierce villain (specifically when we see our everyday caring and struggling mom get into a conflict with him later in the film). Because we already know that this man is willing to do just about anything to those that irritate him and the sinister suspenseful music (composed by David Buckley) suggests that the situation is one that could erupt at any given moment, the audience is prone to be in suspense, thinking, “Run! Get out of this situation now, woman!”, when Rachel and the man encounter each other. Crowe’s performance is effectively menacing; his non-verbal expressions, his tone of voice, and his movements the script calls him to take all create an intimidating stranger. 

The second thing that the setup does tremendously well is get us to like and care for Rachel and her son Kyle. We see Rachel’s imperfections as a human who is frequently late to events, which allowed me to feel like she was real. Additionally, her recent divorce and the father who struggles to stay committed to his plans with his son are details that allowed me to really want to see the struggling mother and this child win in the proceeding conflict that follows. The frustration of bumper-to-bumper traffic and being late is also communicated incredibly well, making Rachel’s initial frustration relatable and allowing the audience to feel a remarkable amount of sympathy once the potentially fatal drama unfolds.

Unfortunately, the film loses its hinges (no pun intended) and falls completely apart at the halfway point when you realize that there is nothing more it has to offer other than repetitive zany ways Crowe’s character attempts to ruin Rachel’s life. There are no real meaty twists, turns, or new plot points that make the film feel fresh. 

Additionally, this is a film where you have to have a suspension of disbelief due to the unrealistic and outrageous events that unfold. In one scene, Crowe kills a man who Rachel cares about in a diner that is entirely full of customers and you will wonder, “Why is nobody stopping him?! Does this place have no police officers?” Sure; everyone may have happened to be too scared to take action and maybe this local mom-and-pop diner does not have security. Still, it just feels too unreal to think that not one person would rise up to prevent injustice and it is also silly to think that Crowe’s character is so brazen that he would not anticipate that someone may tackle him down at this point in the film. The real reason why no one does not stop him is because then the movie would end and that would be too short for a feature length film. Unhinged clocks in at a measly 90 minutes, stretching out it's undeniably intriguingly silly premise which may have worked better as a short film, as I was captivated by the first 45 minutes - 1 hour. 

For audiences who want substance and a significant message, Unhinged has virtually nothing to offer. However, I was embarrassingly entertained by the action and outlandish choices the characters make but will completely understand why some will label it disposable trash. Is it worth venturing out to the theater and risking your life amongst our nation's pandemic? No, absolutley not. Nevertheless, I will recommend renting it on VOD when it does roll out on that platform to fans of the slasher genre that want to see a non-supernatural killer go after a likable protagonist and her son whom you can get behind and root for.

Final Verdict:While Unhinged is entertaining due to a psycho-violent performance by Russell Crow and a likable protagonist, it has no new substance to offer after its intriguing setup.