Unhinged is the latest in the sub-genre of thriller that see a person snapping and taking ‘justice’ into their own hands. The likes of Taxi Driver, Fight Club and American Psycho all defined a generation’s frustration at the injustice they saw materialising in the world around them.
Unhinged’s opening credits point to something similar by playing out news and Youtube footage of people ‘raging’ at the world around them. From traffic incidents to people exacting violence on those around them for no apparent reason. The set-up is there for something interesting, but Unhinged is unlikely to define a generation. Thankfully, it doesn’t really set out to be anything other than a bit of fun.
While we open on Russell Crowe’s bear of a man committing an act of shocking violence the film then switches attention to down on her luck Rachel (Caren Pistorius). Recently divorced, running late to drop her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) off at school and fired by her best client, Rachel is not having a good day. So when she finds herself stuck at a green traffic light behind Crowe’s man-firmly-over-the-edge, she incites his anger. What follows is an escalation in why it’s sometimes good to take the moral high-ground and just say “sorry”.
Essentially an exploitation film, stick a bit of Super 16mm grain on there and have it play out in the late 70s early 80s and it could be a cult classic, Unhinged never challenges you but does enough to keep you gripped.
Yes, Rachel makes a series of very bad decisions which will have you going “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” but the action is relentless. It never really gives you enough room to analyse too deeply.
Director Derrick Borte brings a visceral sense of impact to the car crashes, a thumping sound to the violence and a blistering urgency to the action. So while the plot often doesn’t make a huge deal of sense it’s hard not to get caught up in the sheer volume and breathless speed of Unhinged.
The cast for the most part are all fine without excelling. Crowe has piled on the pounds to become something genuinely horrifying. A normal looking man who appears to have consumed both cage and dangerous hulk within. In typical Crowe fashion he’s at his best when quietly threatening his would-be victims, albeit too often allowing the character’s more shouty side to take over.
Unhinged is a breakneck thrill ride that won’t challenge your thoughts on the world but will have you ducking as debry flies and rolling your eyes at stupid decision making in horror films.