Unhinged (2 stars)

Unhinged

Russell Crowe blows his top in a ropey road rage thriller from Derrick Borte

'Russell Crowe is Unhinged!' shrieks the marketing for his latest, making it clear that an actor famed for his short temper has entered the self-parody stage of his career. Well, colour us intrigued. Playing nameless rager 'The Man', Crowe turns in a borderline bonkers performance – one that tips over into teeth-gnashing on occasion, as a little treat for his fans.

Director Derrick Borte is at the helm of this cross between Falling Down, Duel and The Hitcher, though don't let that tempt you. The unpleasant opener sees The Man turn up at the home of his ex-wife and her new partner with a gas canister and an axe, before killing and torching them both. We're then in the orbit of Caren Pistorius's Rachel, who is getting divorced herself and is unlucky enough to tangle with Crowe in a road rage incident, where her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) is also present, after which she becomes the object of this combustible character's obsession.

It's not a great role for Pistorius (Slow West), but she's perfectly good at being menaced. And Crowe brings suitable intensity and a slippery accent, whether hunched over a steering wheel, eyes wild and searching, or hulking out like a mean green monster. But even an OTT former Hollywood heavyweight can't save what is, quite frankly, a pretty stupid story, characterised by terrible decision-making and inexplicably absent police. The opening credits paint a recognisable, albeit alarmist picture of a society on the brink of mental collapse, suggesting a film that might have something to say about that. It doesn't. Instead, there are surging car chases, and some fairly spectacular vehicular carnage, if you like that kind of thing.

With a screenplay from Carl Ellsworth (Red Eye, Disturbia), it's the kind of film where everything slavishly services the plot, even the most throwaway of comments will ultimately come into play. Stripped of incidental or quirky details, this kind of genre filmmaking is much less fun than something comparable yet idiosyncratic like The Guest. On the other hand, with its shamelessly embittered, flagrantly nasty white male antagonist it's at least more honest than geriaction flicks, whose have-a-go heroes are also bent on bloody revenge, but with audiences cheering along. Crowe, at least, has the decency to be hissable, and perhaps we should be thankful for that.

Available to watch in cinemas from Fri 31 Jul.

Unhinged

  • 2 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 1h 30min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Derrick Borte
  • Cast: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson, Austin P. McKenzie
  • UK release: 31 July 2020

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