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Unhinged: Crowe is Menacing, Most Everything Else Falls Flat

August 21, 2020

I'm sure we're all guilty of it: someone pulls out in front of you at a stop sign, and in addition to (or instead of) slamming on your brakes, you also lay on your horn and give them the old one finger salute. Just so they know you're unhappy.

 

Turns out some people don't like that.

 

Russell Crowe stars as “The Man” in the psychological thriller “Unhinged,” opening in theatres August 21, 2020. (Photo Credit: Skip Bolden)

In 'Unhinged,' Rachel (Caren Pistorius) and her teenage son, Kyle (Gabriel Bateman), find that out the hard way when they cross paths with 'The Man' (Russell Crowe).

 

Already running late, Rachel has been fired by her best client and Kyle faces detention for another tardy slip. In a desperate attempt to make up time, they exit the interstate for the less-populated side streets. When the car in front of them fails to turn on a green light, a frustrated Rachel shares her displeasure with an aggressive beep of her horn.

 

Little does she know it, but the man in front of her is having an even worse morning. Without giving too much away, his morning was much more violent and led to him being the target of a citywide manhunt.

 

When the two can't come to an understanding on who was in the wrong, the man decides he's going to show Rachel just how bad one person's day can get.

 

And – spoiler – it gets pretty bad.

Caren Pistorius (Rachel) stars in the psychological thriller “Unhinged,” opening in theatres August 21, 2020. (Photo Credit: Skip Bolden)

First things first: Russell Crowe is as captivating here as he's ever been. From the very first time he appears on screen, it's hard to take your eyes off him. It's a commanding performance that I'd put on par with his work in 'L.A. Confidential' and 'The Nice Guys.' (My personal favorites of his.) The Man is all over the map – seemingly calm and reasonable one moment, off the rails and violent the next. But the truly scary moments come when the calm meets the violence … there’s no reasoning with someone who is calm and collected in the face of their own evil.

 

Crowe's performance is the main vehicle used to drive the tension, often to a frenzied pace, which starts literally within the first minute of the movie. That pace makes the tidy 90-minute run time feel even shorter than it really is.

 

Unfortunately, once you get past the first couple of 'oh, damn' moments, the rest start to feel stale. That, however, doesn't stop the creative team behind the story (director Derrick Borte and screenwriter Carl Ellsworth) from trying to deliver more of them. The fact is though, they quickly become predictable and formulaic, straddling the line of unnecessary if not for Crowe's work. The best word I can think of to use is 'forced.'

 

If given the choice, rather than breakneck, albeit monotonous, mayhem, I would've preferred a little more backstory on The Man (rather than relying on one early scene and some tidbits given out through throwaway dialogue and TV news reports). In a psychological thriller, I like to delve deeper into the madness instead of just knowing it's present. But perhaps more background would've in some way justified his actions and made him less menacing.

Russell Crowe stars as “The Man” in the psychological thriller “Unhinged,” opening in theatres August 21, 2020. (Photo Credit: Skip Bolden)

 

Crowe's maniacal brilliance is wasted just a bit with ho-hum supporting performances and a story that seems to be trying a little too hard beyond the first act.

 

That said, this is the first major movie to hit theaters in months and despite its flaws, Crowe's performance makes it worth the price of admission.

 

★★1/2 of ★★★★★

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