Director Derrick Borte
Screenplay Carl Ellsworth
Starring Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson, Austin P. McKenzie
Unhinged begins with a montage of various accidents, fights and fits of rage. We get the clear understanding that from the filmmakers point of view, there is a lack of civility in the world today. Some of these images and statements feel like they’ve been added on since the start of covid. It feels pretty relevant and not far fetched at all. It’s a pretty effective way to start a story about incivility gone full throttle.
The story is a simple one. Crowe is Tom Cooper, a middle aged man who has killed a man and woman and burned their house to the ground just as the credits finish rolling. There’s a For Sale sign on the house, and we have the clear idea this belonged to him at one time, and the couple that is killed is his ex-wife and her new beau.
Unlucky Rachel Hunter (Pistorius) is late with her kid, Kyle (Bateman) when she is stopped behind Cooper at a light. The light turns, Cooper’s massive truck stays still. She honks. But not the “courtesy tap” kind. This matters in the world of assholes behind the wheel. Needless to say, she caught Mr. Cooper on a bad day, and he makes it his mission to teach her “what a bad day is.”
There is some straight up road rage at the start. A cut off and a slamming of the breaks. Stopping right in the middle of the road and putting traffic at a standstill. She thinks she’s seen the end of it, and drops her son off at the school.
She calls her lawyer friend (Simpson) and asks if they can move up their lunch date to a breakfast. She’s rattled even more than she was before with her prospective divorce proceedings. Stopping to get gas, she leaves her phone in the car and then goes inside to pay. She sees Cooper and his truck behind hers at the pump. Then things really start to get crazy.
Thing about this film is the decision to make the Oscar winner its protagonist kind of gives it a gravitas for whose skills the story cannot match. We get hints of a well of hatred and anger. Early on, we find that Crowe’s Cooper would ‘not mind suicide by cop.’ Once we know that, there is nowhere for his character to go emotionally. We already know he’s a killer. What’s a few fender benders compared to that? We know he’s ready to end it and wants to take the world out. Mystery solved. It’s a waste of a great actor to have him pound one note over and over, only getting louder as the film wears on like a series of skid marks.
Pistorius is actually good as the object of Cooper’s ire. Her reactions seem reasonable, given each change in her situation. We sympathize with her, even if we know the script is going out of its way to push her as the victim. The story could have handled a little bit of color to her character before the final scene.
When Oliver Reed died during the filming of Gladiator, there was a macabre fascination in watching his scenes, figuring how his bloated appearance correlated with his demise. Watching Russell Crowe angrily huffing and lumbering through Unhinged, all I can say is that Reed looked healthier. Reed was 61 at the time of his demise. Crowe is now 56. This, along with the lack of development of his character would have me worried I might never see Captain Aubrey sail again. I hope I am wrong.
If you want to see a film on par with The Hitcher, but well under the capability of Michael Douglas in Falling Down, you could do worse. I think I will watch Falling Down again.
(*** out of *****)