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Film Review: Unhinged

Director:    Derrick Borte

Cast:   Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Jimmi Simpson, Gabriel Bateman, Austin P. McKenzie

Rating:     MA

Running Time:     90

Australian Distributor:     Studio Canal


The B-film is being distributed by the start-up studio Solstice as an over-the-top violent road-rage film. It’s competently directed in a formulaic way by the German-born Derek Borte (“The Joneses”/”American Dreamer”) but weakly scripted by Carl Ellsworth (“Red Eye”). It entertains you with killings by knife, hammer, fire and pickup truck. Excuse me if those gory scenes failed to entertain me, while the rest of the poorly paced film only unhinged me further in a grim way.   

We’re in New Orleans (even if the city is not named), where an intense Tom Cooper (Russell Crowe), an opioid pill-popper who just lost his job before he’s eligible for a pension, is in the early morning hours in an orderly fashion murdering and incinerating his cheating ex-wife and her new lover in their home–which was his home.

Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is a harried single mom, a hairdresser, in the middle of a nasty divorce that takes all her energy, and she’s also upset with her deadbeat house-guests–her brother (Austin P. McKenzie ) and his girlfriend (Jimmi Simpson) sponging off her. She’s rushing to drop off her teenage son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) to school in time, after oversleeping. The impatient driver loudly honks her horn at the driver in front of her, who is driving a Ford pick-up truck and not moving after the traffic light turns green. It seems Rachel made a mistake in honking loudly and not with just a gentle tap. She picked the wrong driver to do this to and then when he comes to her car window to politely ask her to apologize and she refuses to. The driver is the homicidal psychopath Tom and he’s now in a rage, as he steals her cell phone and plans to make her bad day worse by killing those on her telephone list.  When she flees in her old Volvo, a well produced stunt driver car chase through the city streets ensues.     

Whilst Unhinged breaks zero new ground and steps happily in the footsteps of better films like Breakdown, Falling Down and Duel it’s still a tense, old school thriller that clocks in at 90 minutes and never gets dull.  Director Derrick Borte keeps the pace moving nicely with tension and bursts of brutality.

Note the use of mobile phone technology, ubiquitous nowadays in film but especially important for this plot. The phone allows bad guy to send harrowing images to families and track unwitting victims, and to be tracked himself.  Unhinged gets the tech right, making it integral and a comment on the ambivalence of our inventions.



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