Unhinged attempts to tap into the irrational fear of a road rage incident turning ugly. As drivers, most of us have probably experienced a situation whereby we’ve exercised a little too much aggression, or have made a knee-jerk reaction towards a careless driver (I’m looking at you, middle finger). It’s fair to say then, that a lot of drivers may have played out a fantastical scenario in our heads, whereby the opposing driver loses their goddamn minds and all hell ensues. Unhinged is exactly that scenario.
The basis of the film is that very notion, that this could happen to anyone at anytime. It preys on the commonality of that fear. The opening video montage of riots, car crashes, news reports about unemployment, set the film up against a backdrop of society’s shared grievances, pain and unrest. A faintly political point that’s ultimately underused and embellished, for the sole purpose of watching a man go mad.
The mad-man in question is Oscar winner, Russel Crowe. Referred to as only, “The Man”, this heavy-set, teetering tower of terror, is not to be trifled with. Yet trifled with, he is. His sensibilities are brutally exposed early on, before bumping heads with Rachel (Caren Pistorius), a hairdresser rushing to get her teenage son to school on time. After a traffic jam diverts them, the mother-son duo find themselves gridlocked on an alternative route, and when a large pick up fails to pull off from a green light, she starts honking her horn. *gulp*
You’ve guessed it. Poor old Rachel has just unwittingly ticked off the angriest man in America. As an audience we know the kind of day this man has had, but she has absolutely no idea. As proclaimed by The Man, “you’re about to find out.”
What follows is maniacal stalking at it’s best. Crowe’s ability to impose such a disturbing presence carries much of the film. It’s B-movie stuff at it’s core but he brings A-game charisma to the table. There’s a particular scene in a coffee shop where The Man has intercepted a meeting with Rachel’s divorce lawyer, Andy. They exchange a few words, things are going well enough but unbeknownst to Andy, he’s about to meet his fate in gratuitous fashion. It’s the first time we get a real sense of how far The Man is willing to go, in order to teach Rachel a lesson.
The impending dread flows well, although admittedly, it’s all a bit farfetched which causes it to lose a bit of its edge as things press on. There’s plenty of violence as to be expected, that notches up as The Man hunts down those nearest and dearest to Rachel. For a smaller film, with a handful of characters, Unhinged does a great job of keeping you engaged and appalled. It’s simple, violent and mostly effective.
Whilst not the thriller that was promised to return people to theatres, it’s an enjoyable ride nonetheless. Don’t expect an Oscar nod but for mindless thrills, Unhinged will certainly keep you occupied through its tense situational premise and the furiously disturbing performance from the leading man.