Film Review: Unhinged

Unhinged.

(Spoiler-free review.)

This Russell Crowe vehicle (see what I did there?), Unhinged, is going to do for driving what Jaws did for beach-going. Or not, but almost! I’m already semi-in-that-mode when driving: I rarely, if ever, use my horn, and I most certainly do not give dirty looks, bad hand gestures or run my mouth when driving. For starters, I’m not that kind of person, and I’m not someone who can get an instant temper like that, even if it’s justified, much to the chagrin of ginger stereotypes everywhere. Secondly, related to the film, you just never know! I’m not a confrontational person, and I’m not looking to tick off the one wrong person to tick off, and end up getting shot, driven off the road or whatever else.

I love me some Crowe films, but this is unlike any Crowe film I’ve seen, primarily because he’s playing the villain, and also, he’s far from his 2000 Gladiator days; he’s a bit obese in this, which intentional or not, fits the character (I will note, it seems as if he was at this weight due to prior roles). In this film, Crowe plays Tom Cooper, a man who has lost his dang mind. When Rachel Hunter (played by Caren Pistorius) honks at him, that essentially sets in motion the events of the film, where he terrorizes her and everyone she knows.

Unhinged is the first movie to release nationally since the COVID-19 pandemic in theater, even ahead of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which I reviewed earlier today. I didn’t even see a trailer for this film. I just knew it had Crowe, and I like Crowe. And sometimes, given how much trailers show, it’s better to go in with as little knowledge and as few expectations as possible.

As it turns out, that worked well here. This isn’t going to sound like a compliment, but given how many movies I love for this reason, it is with me: This is a fantastic made-for-TV film. This is one of those films you find channel-surfing (back when we did that) and stop to watch, and you end up watching it eight different times over the years. It’s fun! It’s intense! It’s right in line with what you expect from a good old fashioned thriller film.

Even having not seeing the trailer or read anything about the film, Derrick Borte (director) and Carl Ellsworth (writer) weren’t exactly subtle about their Chekhov’s gun moments. As such, I could guess the general contours of the film moments before it unfolded on screen. But! Despite that, it was still a, shall we say, knuckles-tightening-on-the-steering-wheel intense.

Because of the added weight, Crowe gets lost in the role and that’s a good thing. He’s a scumbag, an absolute scumbag. So you’re rooting for Rachel and her son and others involved to beat this monster. While I said it’s a made-for-TV style movie, there are also still some great, and noteworthy action set pieces, primarily involving driving.

I’m a huge fan of Harlan Coben novels and that’s because he thrusts normal people into extraordinary situations. That proverbial crap-hitting-the-fan moment when the normal person realizes they are in an extraordinary situation makes for great reading, or in this case, viewing. Rachel is thrust into that extraordinary situation when she faces off against Tom.

That’s another way to endorse this film, then. If you like Harlan Coben novels, this is something straight out of a Harlan Coben novel. Simple and effective.

Certainly, the film has more it wants to say and again, it says that rather obvious with a montage at the beginning of the film about how society is getting more, well, unhinged because of technology and the bad things going on in the world. That’s fine. But it works better when it’s doing gut-wrenching car chases and can-you-believe-this-is-happening violence.

If you’re in the mood for that sort of film, then you can’t mess up with this one.

If you have seen it, what did you think of the film?

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