Unhinged got a lot of attention for setting the first theatrical release date when theaters would reopen during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Outpost eaked out first on July 3 but Unhinged still beat Tenet! The release date was sort of a stunt, just like casting Russell Crowe as a psycho driver was, but Unhinged is an entertaining thrill ride wherever you end up watching it.
Russell Crowe IS ‘Unhinged’
A man who will later introduce himself as Tom Cooper (Crowe, and probably a fake name for the character) stalks a house, sitting in his car in the rain taking pills and playing with matches.
The credits play over a montage of road rage incidents, accidents caused by people texting and general examples of anger causing people to lose self-control, even stealing packages off doorsteps. There’s probably still time to insert some shots of people arguing with store staff about wearing a mask, but they can save that for the sequel.
Rachel (Caren Pistorius)’s day gets off to a bad start when she oversleeps and gets stuck in traffic. When a truck remains stopped at a green light, she lets out her frustration honking at it and passing him. It was Tom driving the car and he decides to catch up to her.
‘Unhinged’ escalates quickly
Unhinged knows you came to see Crowe get unhinged so it doesn’t waste any time. When Tom pulls alongside Rachel’s car to apologize to her, you sort of think she may have had a chance to make amends, but probably not. He was probably just setting her up knowing that most people would sensibly not talk to strangers on the road. We’ve all been there too, just a little too harried to deal with minor squabbles.
Pretty soon, Tom is blocking her on the road and following her. He manages to get her phone which serves the practical purpose of preventing Rachel from calling for help, but also adds the real hook of now Tom has Rachel’s contacts. He can interfere with her life, and he does. Road rage is the inciting incident but the thriller is what if someone gets your contacts? They don’t even have to steal your phone. We give our so much information on social media anyway.
Suspense and action
Unhinged ratches up suspense as Tom starts introducing himself to people in Rachel’s life. These poor fools aren’t privy to what the audience has already seen Tom do, so we’re just waiting for him to strike. It’s not the fast-paced automobile action of Kidnap but it does keep raising the stakes for 90 minutes. Rachel does one-up Tom occasionally, like cat and mouse.
Unhinged saved most of its vehicular action for the second half. When Tom takes the chase back on the road, the stunts are huge. It’s also a fun touch that Rachel’s harried driving now irritates other pedestrians and drivers. It’s the circle of rage.
The ’90s were the best era for _____ from Hell movies. There was the nanny from Hell, the roommate from Hell, the cop from Hell. Those usually involved the killer ingratiating themselves with the protagonists for a little while. Unhinged is the driver from Hell and it skips right to the fun part!
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