Not much has been consistent about 2020, especially when it comes to movies, but you have to give “Unhinged” credit: through all the delays and theater closings it has remained determined to get itself seen.
“Unhinged” stars Caren Pistorius as a recently divorced mother who gets into an altercation with a stranger (Russell Crowe) at a red light, and has him begin to terrorize her life. Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson, and Austin P. McKenzie also star while Derrick Borte directs a screenplay by Carl Ellsworth.
While many films were getting pushed back in the early summer due to the uncertainty of theaters, “Unhinged” was actually moved up to July 1 in by new distributor Solstice Studios in order to take advantage of the open field. Like “Tenet” and others, the film was then delayed several times as the pandemic progressed, but finally seems like it will see the light of day this month (ironically its original release month anyways). So, after all the hype and delays, is the film worth the constant perseverance of Solstice or you risking going out to the theaters? I mean, no, nothing short of “Tenet” really seems like it would be at this point in time, but it is a fast-paced and entertaining B-grade pulp film that, as the expression goes, does exactly what it says on the tin.
Russell Crowe is a bit removed from his blockbuster and Academy Awards days, opting instead lately for more character and dialogue-driven films like “Boy Erased” and “The Nice Guys.” “Unhinged” certainly won’t win him any awards, but for what he had to do and be (that being a hulking, growling sociopath) Crowe gets the job done. His accent is a little inconsistent (not sure if he was going for Southern drawl and his Australian half broke through or what), but he has a commanding-enough screen presence and it’s a role that not every actor could have pulled off. Is it a good performance? I mean. If Rami Malek can win an Oscar for “Bohemian Rhapsody” then who is to really judge talent anymore, amiright?
The rest of the cast is solid enough, with Jimmi Simpson doing his nice, soft-spoken thing he’s known for and Caren Pistorius conveying stressed and scared. For a kid actor, Gabriel Bateman isn’t bad, but he has a few line deliveries that are easy to mock.
But you don’t see a film like “Unhinged” for the acting or script. You see it for car crashes and over-the-top kills, and there it mostly delivers. I do think that much like “Spree,” this is a theater or group of friends movie, because there are a few moments that are so insane they’d only be heightened by a crowd atmosphere. Director Derrick Borte also deserves credit for creating a few tense sequences, including the initial confrontation between Pistorius and Crowe even though we know what is coming.
“Unhinged” is not perfect and you need to suspend disbelief at several points (unless the New Orleans PD is truly incompetent, Crowe should get apprehended a half-dozen times), but I think if you go in knowing what to expect then there is lots to enjoy here. Is it the most tense or well-shot film of its kind? No. But in 2020, especially when it comes to cinema, we have to be thankful for what we are given, and I think that if you are truly dying to get out to the theater again, or if this comes to a drive-in near you, then it is a great way to spend 93 minutes.
Critics Rating: 6/10