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A-Ron’s New Movie Reviews: “Unhinged” (2020)

The psychotic road rage thriller is led by an overpowering, sweaty, off the handle performance by Russell Crowe. Are you not entertained?! I know I sure was! Academy Award winner Russell Crowe seems to be having a ball playing the psycho violent, who has a real sense of menace and a gleeful sadism to him. Director Derrick Borte does a solid job of staging highway chases and crashes and keeps his camera lingering on scenes of strong brutal violence (some shown in excruciating close-ups). “Unhinged” is the first big mainstream film to hit theatres exclusively since the start of the pandemic and it’s not the light and breezy movie to welcome you back. Instead Russell Crowe’s road raging maniac guarantees your first time back, won’t be a boring one. It‘s unfortunate that it had to come out in a pre-pandemic time where it could have been a profitable sleeper that will make you question your daily horn use and how a courtesy tap can make all the difference. 

Here’s to hoping that “Unhinged”, will be remembered as that intensely brutal B-movie that not only says something about the stressful times we live in and how a single moment of conflict can have life-altering consequences. But it will also make you question your daily horn use and how a courtesy tap can make a difference. 

“Unhinged” is now available on digital and releases on Blu Ray this coming Tuesday (November 17th). Most famously known to be the biggest major film release, to hit theaters during the pandemic. The psychotic road rage thriller is led by an overpowering, sweaty, off the handle performance by Russell Crowe, that only a star of his caliber could be allowed to get away with. While this time around he doesn’t ask the audience “Are you not entertained?!”, but if he did I’d give him an enthusiastic “yes”. 

In “Unhinged” we find Rachel (played by Caren Pistorius) is having a tough go of life as a single parent with a shaky job and her self-destructive tendency to be late to everything. Stuck in traffic with her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman), while the guy in the truck ahead of her won’t move when the light turns green. She’s late, needs to be somewhere and is in no mood. Blaring at the truck, she zips past the only to have him catch up to Rachel at the next stoplight. 

He explains that she should have employed a gentle “courtesy tap” on the horn instead of such an angry and aggressive honk and that he’d appreciate an apology from her. When Rachel refuses to apologize and expresses zero sympathy for Tom who is also having a hard time. She angrily replies “Welcome to the club” as the man who calls himself Tom retorts, “I don’t think you even know what a bad day is, but you’re going to find out. You hear me, miss? You’re going to f***ing learn”. 

This sets off the films 90 minute thrill ride that moves so quickly it feels as if it runs less than an hour. Tom or known in the credits as Man, will go to homicidal lengths to get that apology from her. Everyone she comes in contact with or knows such as: friends, family or complete strangers at a gas station, all become his bloody victims. Tom growls at Rachel saying, “Let’s play Russian Roulette with your contacts, as he takes control of Rachel’s life like a mixture of the unseen madman from Steven Spielberg’s “Duel”, Michael Douglas in “Falling Down” or even Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike in Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof”. 

Director Derrick Borte (“The Joneses”, “American Dreamer”) and writer Carl Ellsworth’s (“Disturbia”, “Red Eye” & “Red Dawn” remake), biggest asset here is it’s star Russell Crowe who plays wildly against type. Academy Award winner Crowe seems to be having a ball playing the psycho violent Tom Cooper, who has a real sense of menace and a gleeful sadism to him. Crowe is in a hulking, sweating, intimidating bruiser mode as he looks like a linebacker who has let himself go. 

Yet, Crowe also plays him as a very real world monster that believes he has some kind of moral high ground. Thinking he’s the one being wronged, not only by Rachel but by our society. I can just imagine that if it were any other actor as the menacing lead, then “Unhinged” would have been a TV movie or straight to streaming release. 

While it’s thoroughly Russell Crowe’s show, Caren Pistorius (“Gloria Bell”, “The Light Between Oceans”) is a likeable heroine. She’s headstrong and while she is scared for her life, she can still hold her own. Pistorius has that same everyday woman vibe that Rachel McAdams did in “Red Eye”.

The broad-strokes at social commentary quickly gives way to a grimy and gruesome stalker movie. Director Derrick Borte does a solid job of staging highway chases and crashes and keeps his camera lingering on scenes of strong brutal violence (some shown in excruciating close-ups). The well executed action is where “Unhinged”, earns it’s R-rating with some pretty graphic kills to show that Crowe’s character Tom ain’t messing around. Borte goes for an old-school vibe, feeling like a vintage nineties-style thriller. At ninety minutes, it’s extremely well-paced and exciting. 

Russell Crowe is an A-list star in a B-movie, but to his credit it never feels as if he’s slumming it. The effectiveness of Crowe, is convincing as he is someone who is ready to inflict the same damage on others that life has dealt to him. “Unhinged” is the first big mainstream film to hit theatres exclusively since the start of the pandemic and it’s not the light and breezy movie to welcome you back. Instead Russell Crowe’s road raging maniac guarantees your first time back in theaters won’t be a boring one. 

So when you’re driving along and suddenly feel the need to honk your horn at another driver, think again. You never really know who’s behind the wheel of the vehicle you’re honking at, and “Unhinged” exploits that fear in a brutal, intense and suspenseful little thriller. Although it was the number one movie in theaters when it opened. It‘s unfortunate that it had to come out in a pre-pandemic time where it could have been a profitable sleeper.

GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros is the movie critic for Maui Watch. He lives on the beautiful island of Maui and is also a member of the elite Hawaii Film Critics Society and an active cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, where his Grandfather started his love for the movies.

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