Current Issue #487

Film Review:
Unhinged

Russell Crowe is in ludicrously over-the-top form in this tawdry psycho-shocker from director Derrick Borte.

Initially constructed as a would-be meditation upon increasingly violent contemporary times, this supposedly condemns yet actually revels in the nastiness, with Russell coming across as a combination of Ted Bundy, the Michelin Man, Jason Voorhees (from the Friday The 13th films) and a kind of absurd, sub-incel Hulk.

Introduced in a pre-credits sequence sitting in his truck at 4.03am popping pills and glowering to himself, Crowe’s unnamed, hairy, sweaty crackpot is shown in all his goofy glory, as he goes about preposterously carrying out some unrelated vengeful carnage. Again, it is odd watching him, at first, given that fellow A-Listers like George Clooney, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio or even Tom Hanks wouldn’t be caught dead hamming their way through a crude schlocker like this, but once he smashes the first of many heads in, any lurid interest quickly wears off.

It’s also worth noting that screenwriter Carl Ellsworth originally penned this with Nicolas Cage in mind but, in a rare moment of good taste, old Nic turned it down and Russ stepped in (when, typically, you might expect it to be the other way round). Perhaps Cage might also added some eccentric form of pathos, and we could have somehow wound up feeling bad for the guy. But, then again, probably not.

After a haranguing montage depicting genuine vehicular carnage, road rage and vicious crime, we then meet Rachel (the South African Caren Pistorius, no relation to Oscar), an oh-so-well-meaning, soon-to-be-divorced type going through a tough time and sometimes exasperating her long-suffering teen son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman). One chaotic morning she’s driving Kyle to school and, after beeping at Russ’s Big Bad’s truck, she cuts in front of him, leading to his insistence upon an apology – and then a day-long campaign of graphic yet ridiculous revenge.

There are credibility gaps galore: early on Rachel stops for petrol, sorry, gas, and Big Bad manages to steal her phone, plant another in her car, and more, all in the three seconds her back is turned; there seem to be hundreds of cops chasing him, but they’re never, ever there when she needs them; and when Big Bad commits gory murder in broad daylight, he gets away totally unscathed, even though this is America (good name for a song!) and he’d have been shot multiple times by passersby all ‘standing their ground’.

Also present are glimmers of that late 80s/early 90s cycle of deeply conservative US psycho-thrillers like The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Unlawful Entry, Pacific Heights and so many more, but in those dodgy epics the crazies (Rebecca De Mornay, Ray Liotta and Michael Keaton, respectively) were all amusing, eye-rolling scene-stealers whom we liked better than the namby-pamby heroes. Here, however, Crowe’s is unknowable, unsympathetic and absolutely improbable – and, to be fair, it must be pointed out that even his apparently huge gut is fake (although not quite as dramatically as his transformation into Fox News architect Roger Ailes for last year’s TV drama The Loudest Voice). In the scene where he rolls up to menace Rachel’s hapless bestie Andy (Jimmi Simpson), you can pretty plainly see that he’s got padding shoved up his shirt.

And please, for pity’s sake, do we really need yet another dire cover version of Blue Öyster Cult’s (Don’t Fear) The Reaper? Surely a certain ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic song would have been far more appropriate?

Reviewer Rating
5/10

Unhinged (MA) is in cinemas now

DM Bradley

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