Starring: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman
Director: Derrick Borte
Running Time: 93 mins
Unhinged is an American film about a mother who, after an altercation with a man at a traffic intersection on a congested morning, finds herself relentlessly pursued by him through the day, as he stops at nothing to take revenge on her.
Darkly exciting and often terrifyingly violent, Unhinged takes a simple concept and turns it up to eleven, with rapid pacing, unrelenting performances and an impressive shock value right from the start. It may go a little far at times, lacking the dramatic depth to back up its intensity, but there’s something undeniably entertaining about just how dark a movie it is.
Unhinged does try to bring in some deeper themes to the table, attempting to look at the potentially catastrophic consequences of the average person’s pent-up stress in the modern world (symbolised a little heavy-handedly by traffic congestion). However, that’s not really where the film’s darkest and most exciting value lies.
Instead, it’s in the simpler, more chaotic action and thrills of the story, as we follow Caren Pistorius relentlessly pursued by Russell Crowe playing a man at his wit’s end, intent on destruction and revenge no matter what the cost.
In that, the film goes to lengths that I really didn’t expect at first. Its opening scene alone is pretty shocking, but it’s the fact that Crowe is so remorseless throughout that makes things all the more terrifying, coupled with genuinely frightening violence at times.
The intensity of that violence and the dark, unrelenting nature of Crowe’s character makes Unhinged hit a whole lot harder than your average thriller, though it’s fair to say that it does jump the gun with its shock value, going very far very quickly, meaning that the events of the latter half of the film are less horrifying than a snowballing narrative would have afforded.
Still, Unhinged is really well-paced throughout, and the performances from both Pistorius as the protagonist and Crowe as the antagonist are excellent throughout. Director Derrick Borte does well to keep the film as entertaining and exhilarating as possible even when it does go to darker lengths, though he fails to craft a more palpable tension that could have made this even more exciting.
The road rage element of the movie is highly reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s Duel, but through the way Unhinged focuses on the antagonist, we understand why he’s terrorising an innocent driver, and as such don’t get that same bewildering and terrifying mystery and anonymity that Spielberg’s classic thriller throws up/
The deeper themes of pent-up rage also remind me of the brilliant Argentinian thriller Wild Tales, albeit with a darker twist that also brings in elements reminiscent of Cape Fear. It’s fair to say that Unhinged doesn’t quite bring those ideas to life in the most eye-catching fashion, but in harking back to those films it certainly makes for an exciting watch.
Overall, I was really impressed with Unhinged. Intense, fast-paced and exhilarating throughout, it’s a darkly entertaining watch with unrelenting violence that genuinely shocked me throughout. It may not hit home on a deeper, dramatic level, but with parallels to cinematic classics and its own excellent intensity, it’s a thrilling watch all the same, which is why I’m giving it a 7.7.