The race to be the first big movie in theaters has been an ongoing discussion all summer long. Many theaters are starting to reopen – which starts a whole separate conversation – and, like most things, everyone wants to be first. The new Russell Crowe thriller Unhinged was originally slated to come out the first weekend in July but wanted to keep its theatrical release, so like most movies, the date shifted. Then it shifted again. It may have shifted one more time.
Caren Pistorious plays Rachel, who is taking her son (Gabriel Bateman) to school one day when she gets stopped behind a truck. The light is green, but the truck is refusing to move. Rachel lays on her horn, but there is still no movement. She swerves around him and moves on with her day – or so she thought. At another red light, the same truck pulls up alongside her, and she is introduced to Tom Cooper (Crowe), who demands an apology from Rachel for honking at him. What starts weird, but civil, turns into Tom getting increasingly angry when Rachel refuses to apologize.
Once again, Rachel thinks she is done with the man until she turns around in a gas station and sees his truck sitting behind her car. From that moment on, Tom is constantly lurking in her shadow, always a step ahead of her, trying to teach Rachel a lesson in road civility in the most uncivil way. A predictable game of cat-and-mouse ensues.
“What starts weird, but civil, turns into Tom getting increasingly angry when Rachel refuses to apologize.”
At its core, Unhinged is a B-level movie best suited for a dark night at the drive-in. The movie knows what it is, and undoubtedly offers some tense moments, but once the plot contrivances start to stack up, Unhinged becomes too silly for its own good. It leans heavily into the violence to distract, but the flailing story surrounding it.
Crowe, who has recently taken on supporting turns in movies like Boy Erased, brings a hulking and intimidating presence to the movie but layers his menace on a bit too thick. His performance is very mannered, with different twitches and movements, to indicate this character is not okay. We do get a brief bit of backstory at the beginning of the movie, but it feels like slapdash exposition to try and justify his character’s horrific actions.
Director Derrick Borte previously directed the little-seen The Joneses, starring Demi Moore, which commented upon excess in suburbia. There’s a sense he wants a bit of commentary to creep into his latest movie about male rage and revenge, but the movie barely functions on a basic midnight movie level. Those seeking cheap thrills will be along for the ride, but by the time Tom’s plan for revenge played out a bit too conveniently, Unhinged made me want to jump out of the car.
"…a B-level movie best suited for a dark night at the drive-in"