August 31, 2020 Unhinged (Movie Review)
It almost feels mandatory these days that if you are going to tackle a B movie concept, it must be politicized. Must have a message in the end. Must be relevant. It’s understandable from a marketing standpoint, but also frustrating, because more often than not, it seems to hijack the fun. Rest assured, this is not the case with Derrick Borte’s latest vehicular Thriller Unhinged.
Released via Solstice Studios, Unhinged marks the first new studio film to open with a wide release since the COVID-19 shutdown nearly five months ago. That is right, Unhinged is not going to be on any VOD platforms at this time as it is only for theatrical release. Hitting theaters on Friday, August 21, 2020, lean and mean, the film stars Caren Pistorius (Slow West 2015, Mortal Engines 2018), Jimmi Simpson (Date Night 2010, House of Cards series), Austin P. McKenzie (When We Rise 2017, Speech & Debate 2017), a continuously impressive Gabriel Bateman (Lights Out 2016, Child’s Play 2019), and of course, acting giant Russell Crowe (Gladiator 2000, Robin Hood 2010) in a show-stopping, scene-chewing performance that goes for the throat.
The plot is simple. Rachel (Pistorius), a single mother, and her son Kyle (Bateman) become the targets of a psychotic truck driver named Tom Cooper (Crowe) after she was a little too aggressive with her honking when Tom zones out at a green light. What follows is a vicious 24 hours as Tom relentlessly hunts Rachel down Duel style. Wiping out anybody that stands between them.
Now perhaps if this film did not star Russell Crowe, or someone of his caliber, then it would certainly have a lot of potential to be just a basic, unsatisfying cheesy red box pick. But it’s not. This movie kicks ass on all levels. It is brutal, sadistic, fast paced, well-lensed and very well directed. The opening scene alone is the definition of ruthless. It is easy to compare Unhinged to loads of other Thrillers such as Falling Down (1993), Changing Lanes (2002), Duel (1971), or Death Proof (2007). However, Unhinged is its own beast altogether.
This is all thanks to Derrick Borte (The Joneses 2009, American Dreamer 2018) who does an excellent job in tackling that tonal balance of pure entertainment spliced with unpleasant realism. Not an easy feat, this is certainly helped by high concept veteran Screenwriter Carl Ellsworth who also penned Red Eye (2005), Disturbia (2007) and The Last House on the Left (2009). Obviously this script is nothing out of Ellsworth’s comfort zone, but it does officially cement him as a true master of the “Elevated genre” type of storytelling.
Adding to it all, the supporting cast are all great. In fact, Gabriel Bateman will no doubt transition nicely into adult roles when the time comes. Then there is Jimmi Simpson which always delivers, but it was nice to see him in a more intense role as Rachel’s lawyer and possible lover. Heads up, he has a one on one scene in a diner with Crowe, and it is one of the best scenes in the film.
All this in mind, there is couple of gripes about Unhinged. It is a straightforward A to Z popcorn high concept movie, so there is going to be some plot holes. Suspension of disbelief. Ridiculous character decisions. It’s all in here, but the movie is so focused and well made that you forgive those mistakes as they are almost part of what makes the whole experience fun.
Overall Unhinged is exactly what the poster promises. It is an unforgiving 90 minute road rage slasher that delivers the groceries on maximum overdrive…all pun intended. If you are lucky enough to be near a cineplex or a drive-in that is screening Unhinged, it would be worth your time to get the full surround sound experience. You will not be disappointed, and that is why Cryptic Rock give Unhinged 4 out of 5 stars.