I’ve seen a lot of bad movies in my lifetime, but UNHINGED is definitely one of the worst. Russell Crowe, looking swarthy, sweaty and as heavy as we’ve ever seen him, stars as Tom Cooper, a man who has come apart --- “unhinged” --- and has just murdered his ex-wife and her husband and blown up their home. And --- he’s just getting started.
Rachel Hunter (Caren Pistorius) has overslept. Now she’s in a rush to get her young son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) to school and on with her day. She’s just found out from her best friend and divorce attorney, Andy (Jimmi Simpson), that her ex wants their house and her biggest client has fired her. And the traffic getting Kyle to school is horrific. So, she’s not exactly having a great day thus far.
In her frustration, she blows her horn, twice --- something I’ve been known to do --- at a truck stopped at a green light. The driver of said truck is Cooper, who has just committed the murders, so he’s having a very bad day, too. He pulls up beside Rachel and requests an apology --- and when she refuses, all hell breaks loose. Road rage doesn’t begin to describe Cooper’s maniacal behavior.
If this sounds ludicrous --- trust me --- it’s much worse. First of all, the screenplay by Carl Ellsworth has holes big enough Cooper could drive his big ol’ nasty truck through them. It’s just an awful mess.
At one point, after Cooper has killed a few more people, Rachel manages to secure Kyle and they determine their best plan is to go to a police station. UNHINGED takes place in New Orleans and for the life of me I don’t know where Rachel was driving, but they end up on a four-lane highway again. Aren’t most police stations closer to neighborhoods than that?
UNHINGED is billed as a “thriller”. Brushing my teeth is more thrilling than this trainwreck. Crowe is menacing for sure, but even his act grows thin after the first half of the film. Pistorius is acceptable as the frantic heroine, but Bateman gives by far the best performance in UNHINGED. None of this matters, however, because one simply cannot get past the abominable writing --- and, as we know, it’s all about the writing.
UNHINGED is gratuitously violent and a complete waste of time. As David will explain, you know there’s a problem when Rachel’s old Volvo station wagon is rear ended at least six times by Cooper’s massive pickup and there are no dents in the back end of the car in the final shot.
Opinion: Don’t Bother!
Russell Crowe reportedly was initially averse to taking on the role of Tom Cooper in UNHINGED after reading the script, and after watching this ultra-violent film it’s easy to see why. He should have listened to his initial instincts.
This movie could have been a gripping thriller but the writing flaws and particularly the production missteps are too great to
overcome[DK1] . That’s not to say it isn’t well acted because Crowe is downright terrifying as a conscienceless killer. He is even more fearsome given the actor’s still obese body previously on display in his Emmy-nominated turn as Roger Ailes in “The Loudest Voice” (2019).
Caren Pistorius as Rachel is appropriately horrified as the object of Cooper’s road rage. Austin P. McKenzie is convincingly afraid for his life as Rachel’s younger brother Fred. And in fairness, director Derrick Brote does fashion some very tense moments. One scene in a diner with Cooper and Rachel’s attorney Andy (Jimmi Simpson) is well orchestrated.
Rachel oversleeps because she fails to set an alarm. She is then in a hurry knowing she has to drive her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) in heavy traffic to his school, which is relatively far away. She is also fired by a client, adding to her stress.
She justifiably honks at what we learn is Cooper’s pickup truck when it sits at a green light for far too long. In her anger, she swerves around his vehicle and lays on the horn again as she makes a left turn. This is too much for Cooper, so he follows her to a gas station where he steals her phone which has a tracking device. This enables him to follow her every move.
The screenplay by Carl Ellsworth has major issues, but there are even worse blunders in the film’s production. How is it that neither Rachel’s car nor Cooper’s pickup display any damage after multiple rammings? Why is that the cops take forever getting to an address where they can confront Cooper? In one sequence, Rachel crashes into his stolen minivan, which is subsequently overturned. Yet he manages to extricate himself in impossibly record time to immediately confront Rachel.
UNHINGED could have been titled ROAD RAGE FOR PSYCHOPATHS or DON’T TRY THIS IN YOUR CAR! We’ve all been there. Some crazy or inept driver does something stupid on the road and the tendency is to blast your horn or worse. So maybe UNHINGED has some value after all, like being a warning to us viewers to show restraint when a driving situation normally calls for an angry response. However, I would avoid this savagely violent and somewhat irrational film.
Opinion: Don’t Bother!