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2 reviews, 1 rating

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by Peter Sobczynski

"As The Crowe Drives"
1 stars

Under normal circumstances, “Unhinged” is exactly the kind of movie that one might expect to find popping up in multiplexes towards the end of August—a high concept thriller featuring a slumming star hoping to score a few bucks during the typical lull at the box office after all of the big summer blockbusters have played out and before the onslaught of Oscar bait. Now, thanks to an accident of fate, the film will instead go down in the annals of entertainment history as the first major theatrical release of a film since the arrival of the pandemic—sort of a metaphorical canary in the coal mine to judge how safe theaters really are and whether viewers are still willing to come together to see a movie in a public indoor setting. Alas, it is the audience that will wind up encountering something foul and noxious that they will desperately want to escape because “Unhinged” is dumb and wildly distasteful garbage from start to finish—a would-be provocation that ends up wallowing in all of the violence and brutality that it offers up nonstop during its 90-minute run time.

Our heroine is Rachel (Caren Pistorious) and as the story begins, she is clearly having a bad day—her ex-husband is demanding more money from her that she doesn’t have from her hairdresser gig, she is late getting her young son, Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) and she loses her top client when she gets stuck in freeway traffic and cannot make an appointment. Therefore, when the driver of the huge pickup truck in front of her at an intersection refuses to move at a green light, she is in no mood for it and lays hard on the horn before pulling around. At the next light, the pickup pulls up next to her and the driver (Crowe), who is referred to only as The Man in the credits, insists that she apologize to him for her rudeness. Not surprisingly, she refuses and drives off to finally drop off Kyle. What she doesn’t realize is that The Man, as seen in the film’s prologue, has already snapped and murdered his ex-wife and her new husband before torching the house. Now with Rachel as the new focus of his rage, he begins obsessively pursuing her and not only murdering anyone unlucky enough to get in his way but stealing her phone so that he can kill the loved ones in her contact list.

In essence, “Unhinged” is an amalgamation of pieces taken from such films as “Duel,” “The Hitcher” and “Falling Down,” three films that I do admire to at least some degree—“Duel” remains my second-favorite Steven Spielberg film of all time. In each one of those cases, the films delivered the B-movie goods but they each had something more going for them as well that made them into something more than just well-made junk—screenplays that were smarter and more clever than one might have expected, stylish direction, strong performances. “Unhinged,” by comparison, has almost none of those things going for it. The screenplay by Carl Ellsworth (whose previous scripts include the genuinely clever “Red Eye” and the irredeemably stupid “Disturbia”) has a potentially arresting premise and one genuinely effective scene (the one where Rachel and The Man have their tense conversation after she has honked at him, a scene that evokes the kind of nervous social tension that most viewers will instantly recognize) but quickly devolves into a relentless array of scenes of smashing cars and The Man brutally murdering people while raging about how unfairly he is being treated by the world. In addition, there are two many point in the story in which things can only proceed if the characters act like complete idiots. For example, how is The Man able to get into Rachel’s phone in the first place? Oh, we hear early on that she decide to eliminate the pass code feature. Then there is a scene in which Rachel’s best friend (Jimmi Simpson) finds himself sitting across from The Man at a diner and somehow does not find anything that he says to be suspicious at all.

Director Derrick Borte (whose previous film, “American Dreamer,” also told a tale of a seemingly ordinary guy behind the wheel of a car driven to murderous extremes) certainly knows how to stage a car crash but it is a party trick that soon wears out its welcome here and the other scenes of violence are so wildly overscaled in their brutality that the film at times begins to feel like a cartoon. As for the characters, he demonstrates pitifully little interest in any of them other than The Man—Rachel, despite being the theoretical focus of our sympathies, is little more than a cipher throughout and the others are basically fodder. The only character he has any interest in is The Man, who winds up thoroughly dominating the proceedings both dramatically and physically. As for Crowe, I cannot possibly begin to fathom why he would have signed on to a decidedly low-rent project like this but he certainly knows how to dominate the proceedings. With his fearsome sense of focus and considerable bulk (he seems even bigger than the truck he is driving), he is undeniably compelling but even he cannot make heads or tails out of a script that starts with him already cranked up to 11 but leaves him with nowhere to go.

Up until its final few moments, I deeply disliked “Unhinged”—other than Crowe’s inexplicable commitment to a project that is far beneath him—but it was at the very end that my feelings boiled over into outright hate. (I will try to be vague but, needless to say, Spoiler Alert.) In those final moments, Rachel is driving off into the sunset when a car cuts her off at an intersection even though she clearly has the right of way. She is just about to honk to signal her displeasure towards the guy in the other car—you know, just like before—when she stops at the last second and lets it go. In theory, I guess this is supposed to show that she a rare moment of civility in her willingness to let things like that slide. In practice, it reads as if The Man’s relentless terrorizing of her has had the desired effect and the domineering male, who went down swinging, has ensured that a woman will never again speak her mind about anything again, even when she is clearly in the right. That scene transforms the film from just another craptacular into something resembling a call to arms to incels who have worn out their Blu-Rays of “Joker” and are looking for something new. It is a good thing that theaters showing “Unhinged” will be practicing social distancing because woe unto anyone who might have wound up sitting next to someone who actually liked it.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=33479&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/19/20 18:07:00
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User Comments

8/24/20 Louise (the real one) We really don't need such horrid films.Just reading this review's enough to put me off. 1 stars
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  21-Aug-2020 (R)
  DVD: 17-Nov-2020


  DVD: 17-Nov-2020

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