REVIEW: “Unhinged” (2020)


Movie theaters all around the country are welcoming back audiences with “Unhinged”, long advertised as the first major new release to come out on the big screen in five months. After several delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, the movie is finally set to open exclusively in theaters this weekend. “Unhinged” is a road-rage thriller from director Derrick Borte and writer Carl Ellsworth that starts off with a pulpy bang, foregoing all niceties and getting right to the dirty work of putting a face to its title.

In its terrific tone-setting opening, we see a man played by Russell Crowe sitting in his pickup truck as rain pours down from the night sky. He looks haggard and empty – his nerves clearly shot. He pops some pills, pulls off his wedding band and flicks it over his shoulder. With a sudden glance of calm resolution, he steps out into the downpour, pulls a long claw hammer and a gas can from his backseat and walks to the front door of a two-story suburban home. The violence that follows firmly sets him as the film’s antagonist and all before the title hits the screen.


Photo Courtesy of Solstice Studios

That shocking prologue puts “Unhinged” in an interesting place. It’s a rousing, savage introduction that sets high expectations which the rest of the movie works hard trying to reach (it never quite does). One thing is for sure, Borte’s shrewd table-setting gets its hooks in the audience and Crowe’s grim manifestation of modern society’s festering angst, fury, and incivility leaves you glued to the screen.

Not wanting to overplay its ‘crazy man’ hand, the movie pivots to its main story. Recently divorced Rachel (Caren Pistorius) has hit rock-bottom, struggling financially while trying to take care of her young son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman). After oversleeping she speeds through the dense traffic of an unnamed city (filmed in and around New Orleans) to get her frustrated son to school on time. “Three tardies is an automatic detention” Kyle grumbles, used to his mother’s perpetual lateness.

Rachel pulls up behind a pickup at a traffic light. The light turns green but the truck doesn’t budge. A stressed Rachel lays on her horn and swerves around followed by an angry flip of her hand. At the next light the truck pulls beside her, the man from the prologue in the driver’s seat. He rolls down his window and explains that he’s been having a rough go and apologizes demanding Rachel do the same. When he doesn’t get the response he’s looking for his poorly veiled indignation boils over. “I don’t think you even know what a bad day is.” he seethes. “But you’re gonna find out.”

The encounter sets the single-minded story in motion as the deranged madman terrorizes Rachel for the duration of the movie’s running time. The man (who calls himself Tom Cooper in one scene but is hardly convincing) follows Rachel around the city, actually getting her phone at one point and threatening to kill her loved ones. “Who’s going to die? Or do you want me to play Russian roulette with your contact list?” Borte squeezes out everything he can from the simple story, cranking the tension level to 10 and not shying away from amping up the gruesome nature of the violence.


Photo Courtesy of Solstice Studios

Pistorius makes for a solid protagonist, ably portraying a single mother down on her luck but not without her own shortcomings. She’s steadily convincing whether conveying abject terror or mama bear grit when protecting her son. But it’s Crowe who takes no time reminding us of his A-list acting chops. We know from the chilling opening that his character has more going on than a simple case of the Mondays. But Crowe goes all-in, bulling through scenes with sadistic blunt force. He’s the one people will be talking about.

“Unhinged” is a simple yet satisfying thriller that by the end turns into full-on maniacal horror. Its simplicity is its biggest flaw. While the film aggressively barrels forward, it sticks to its one single lane and never taking a detour. You know where it’s going to end. Still the trip there is worthwhile in large part thanks to Crowe and the unsettling menace he brings to the screen. You never doubt his character’s burning hatred towards everything living including himself. It’s great to see Crowe in top form once again. “Unhinged” opens Friday only in theaters.



20 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Unhinged” (2020)

  1. Sounds good. Does it get into how Crowe got into his down-on-his-luck status? Somehow I think the road rage target is not the first person he has terrorized. Everyone’s worst nightmare!

  2. I’m quite intrigued. Unfortunately, though our theaters are opening as well, Ohio is still having quite a rough go of things (but it looks like cases are going back down for us, let’s hope it continues, people barely do the bare minimum here) as it pertains to the pandemic and I didn’t get a screener for this one.

    Think I’ll probably bypass the silver screen for the rest of the year and see where we’re at and I’m at for 2021.

    • Yeah, sadly this is my plan too. Given the way things are going right now, it seems too risky. Plus I can only imagine how weird it would be to sit in a very empty auditorium knowing that pretty much the only reason you have all this extra leg room is because there is a pandemic raging on. It’s not because of the movie, its quality or lack of promotion. I think that aspect would weigh on me so much I wouldn’t be able to focus on the movie.

    • Sorry to hear that. Out numbers have bounced up and down adding a lot of unpredictability. I was REALLY impressed with our theater’s incredible response and protocols (we saw Jurassic Park last weekend). They have went beyond our state’s guidelines. Of course they have seriously limited their number of showtimes so getting in will be a challenge. Kinda glad I got the screener so I can stay at home this weekend.

  3. Yeah I’m just not going to be risking my own health for seeing a movie in a theater right now. I really really resent this theatrical release option only. Though I also get it. Theater chains have been crippled by the last few months. It’s going to be fascinating seeing the box office intake after like, 2 weeks or so. See how many people are willing to take a chance. I’m glad to hear the movie is good but I am going to wait to see it. The way things are going in this country, I probably won’t be stepping into a damn movie theater for the rest of the year 😦

    • We saw Jurassic Park in our favorite theater last weekend and felt safer than in any grocery story or even my workplace. They went waaaay beyond state guidelines. Of course that doesn’t guarantee every place will do that which creates an uncertainty that will certainly impact people’s decisions. I’m glad I got a screener for this one. Not worrying with a theater visit this weekend.

      • Well that is good to hear, and you have a good point about grocery shopping etc. There is arguably more exposure in places like that, where I’ve been lately people left and right incorrectly wearing masks. It really pisses me off people can’t do the SIMPLEST things to get this spread under control, and I just would assume theaters wouldn’t be much more in line with protocol than some of these stores I shop at. But considering their circumstances now, yeah, very stringent measures I can see being enforced and it’s good to know they are. I tell ya, I can’t WAIT to see Tenet in a theater. That’s been a brutal wait

      • Oh I know what you mean. Don’t you love crossing paths with someone who has their mask around their neck!!!

        Our theater has so many good measures in place. For example every screening is assigned a supervisor for the duration of the movie and the cleanup afterwards. They have clipboard in hand monitoring every single detail. And I kinda laughed at one thing. An elderly man got tired of waiting on his wife who was in the bathroom. He sat down on a bench and she immediately came out. He popped back up and they left. Within seconds a staff member came by with a spray bottle and two rags and rubbed the bench down.

  4. This looks interesting but am I going to risk my own well-being to see a movie in the theaters even though the price $0.15? No. I’d rather stay home. I ain’t getting fucking COVID.

    • I think it’s worth checking out. I know some people really didn’t care for it. I especially enjoyed Crowe. Talk about a disturbed and unsettling character. Great performance.

  5. Pingback: 17+ Unhinged Reviews – First new film to test market, yes, moviegoers are showing up again – Movies, Movies, Movies

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