Unhinged is the first BIG(ish) cinema release since the lockdown began and Rory Cashin is here to give you the lowdown...
For the first half-hour or so, you’ll be asking yourself one question over and over again while watching this movie: “Russell Crowe, what are you doing in this??” The Oscar-winner was a bit of a gruff sex symbol in the late-90s and early-00s, but the last two decades have not been kind to his career, while Crowe himself has become a lumbering bear of a man, so physically present that you can’t help but feel intimidated and worried for all of the tiny co-stars around him.
But then you realise that is kind of the point. Crowe throws himself into the role so completely, it is clear he is having an absolute ball playing an unnamed psychopath who decides to destroy the life of a random woman (relative unknown Caren Pistorius) because she beeped her horn a bit too loudly at him during rush-hour traffic.
What plays out is one point Falling Down (everyday life makes lunatics of us all), Changing Lines (lives destroyed by a fender bender), and Joy Ride (one long chase by an unknown bad man in a big truck), but with the violence and pitch-black sense of humour cranked up to ten.
As the movie tries to tell you that it has a MESSAGE in big capital letters, it is making a mistake: it is trying to appeal to your intellect. As real-life footage plays out over the opening credits of riots and panics and statistics on mobile phone usage and how rude we’ve all gotten, it is almost trying to paint Crowe’s serial murderer out to be some kind of avenging angel, like a boogeyman invented to fight modern-age bad manners. In Falling Down, Michael Douglas was never the hero, he simply couldn’t exist in a world that he felt had wrong him too many times, i.e. White Male Perceived Victimisation. In Unhinged, Crowe is taking such glee in tormenting and killing that your brain will never allow you to take his side… Except…
It is just so much fun watching Crowe actually HAVE this much fun. It is in very bad taste, of course, but in an updated, sorta-kinda-maybe-remake of Death Wish, it seems very self-aware of those levels of bad taste. Your higher-reasoning will be “tut-tut” ing at the screen, while your base, primal level will be internally squealing with glee as Crowe causes yet another multi-car pile-up on the freeway in his single-minded pursuit of an entirely innocent woman.
While Pistorius does enough to make sure we’re on her side through, and the script and direction do enough to keep things running intensely over the barely 90 minutes screentime, any and all enjoyment you do get from this will be from your ability to turn your moral compass off, and just sit back and watch Russell Crowe having the time of his life.