While Unhinged prides itself on being one of the first films in theaters, it would have been better off going straight to VOD because it’s not good.
A psychological thriller should be easy to get into but I struggled to get into Unhinged. It isn’t for the lack of trying. Russell Crowe absolutely does his best to sell himself as a psychotic driver. The thing is: we’ve seen this film better and it was done so much better. Remember 1971’s Duel? It was Steven Spielberg’s first film–a business commuter gets terrorized by an unseen truck driver. And so, I couldn’t help but think about Duel while watching this film. The only difference is that we get to see the driver of the vehicle in this film and he’s not so pleasant at all.
Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is on her way to work when “The Man” (Russell Crowe) decides to lose it at a stop light. Because he’s at the lowest point in his life, he takes it out on Rachel. She doesn’t apologize for whatever he believed to be wrong in their initial encounter and the dominoes fall from there. This includes threatening the life of Rachel’s son, Kyle (Gabriel Bateman). He threatens so many people that Rachel cares about.
Russell Crowe gets top billing here. However, the camera devotes more time to actress Caren Pistorius. You find yourself caring more about what happens to Rachel than you do with Crowe’s unnamed character. In watching the film, the film makes you fear for Rachel’s life. Through this feat alone, the film does it’s job. But this alone isn’t enough. Screenwriter Carl Ellsworth writes the film with a certain intensity. One of the few things I like about the film is that it takes place in real-time. But this is about it.
For complete transparency purposes, I watched this film as an online press screener. Unfortunately, the buffering speeds did make the film hard to get into. When you’re watching a psychological thriller, you want to be on the edge of your seat but buffering made this next to impossible. There are scenes here that certainly work better on a bigger screen. I did find myself reacting in a way that would have been different if I was sitting in a theater. At the same time, there are very few distinct moments in the film that make it worth the price of admission. Moreover, I’m personally not comfortable going back to theaters. Not with spiking cases, anyway.
Given the nature of the thriller, so much of Unhinged feels entirely predictable. Even knowing as little as I did going into the film, the predictability of it shows that it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. Take a moment in the third act, for instance, I saw this coming a mile away. When something like this happens, the thrills aren’t even there anymore. It’s really a shame.
DIRECTOR: Derrick Borte
SCREENWRITER: Carl Ellsworth
CAST: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmy Simpson, Austin P. McKenzie