There are very few ways in which Unhinged is a great film. But hey, it is a very strange summer, adrenaline junkies don’t have many alternatives, and Russell Crowe punches and yells like a man possessed.
Venting your frustration by beeping at traffic can be damaging to your health – your own and that of those around you. Before you know it, you might beep at Russell Crowe. And he doesn't appreciate that kind of thing.
The rough diamond from New Zealand sees it as a good reason to rage at you, grumbling and growling, and to barge, batter, beat, stalk, and beleaguer. Or at least Unhinged, an ultra-violent, rudimentary road thriller that has filled a worldwide hole left by the fact that no major studios dare to release their films in cinemas at the moment.
Crowe – his character is unnamed – unleashes all his devils on a stressed-out, divorced mother who dared to beep at him. The rotund, provoked white man is angry, reacts like a maniac and with sadistic violence, and answers each new escalation with even crueller escalations. The ludicrous plot gets in the way of any real narrative tension and director Derrick Borte mistakenly thinks that a grey filter automatically results in an ominous atmosphere.
Crowe is used to working with far better material. He played the lead in excellent films by masters like Michael Mann (The Insider), Ridley Scott (Gladiator), Peter Weir (Master and Commander), Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential), and Darren Aronofsky (Noah). You needn't tell him that Derrick Borte and Unhinged do not belong in this list. He knows that perfectly well. But he doesn't let it bother him and he hits the gas hard. Perhaps even too hard.
The savage pulp is hard-pressed for some humour. But the cinemas are hard-pressed for some explosions, car chases, and fights to the death. And that's what this film offers. Toot the news, but not too aggressively.