Review: Unhinged

Score: C-

Director: Derrick Borte

Cast: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rated: R

Unhinged is not a good movie. Sure, there are some intense moments and nicely staged vehicular mayhem, but at its core, it is a vicious, nasty, thoroughly confused film that somehow stars an Academy Award winner in the lead role. Russell Crowe, looking sufficiently grizzled, isn't elevating this material in any way. He grunts his way through this would-be thriller, attempting a southern accent and repeatedly telling his victim, "You need to learn your lesson."

When we first see the Man (as he's billed), he's popping pills and getting up the nerve to break into a house and brutally murder everyone inside before setting it ablaze. This already sets him up as a complete psycho, so the entire premise of some exchanged honks at an intersection setting him off has already unraveled. The impatient driver (Caren Pistorius) has a laundry list of stressful situations (messy divorce, mentally ill mother, money troubles) on top of oversleeping and needing to get her kid (Gabriel Bateman) to school. Their first interaction with Crowe is intense but grows increasingly preposterous as he causes accident after accident trying to threaten her.

A scene at a diner is among the most gruesome things I've seen all year, and is what ultimately leads to the film's absolute ridiculousness. We're supposed to buy that the Man is an opioid-addicted hulk, but also savvy enough to track down his victim's lawyer and pretend to be a cop. There are some vague references to a divorce being his motivation, but he's mostly an unstoppable killing machine, still going on the rampage even after what's sure to be multiple concussions and a bullet wound to the shoulder. This all with the woman he harasses throughout basically scatterbrained until she teams up with her preteen son.

It's at this point that the movie goes from straight-up bad to fun-bad.  In fact, this switch makes Unhinged the best fun-bad movie Hollywood has produced since 2009's Obsessed. Like that Beyoncé-led film, it's got some troubling notions about the state of the world and the nature of people. It also has atrocious writing, weak acting, and a violent finale that's an absolute hoot. I don't want to oversell it: This film is mostly awful, but it somehow peaks into something sublimely awful by the third act.

To be clear: you shouldn't go to a theater to see Unhinged, even if there weren't a pandemic right now. Just wait until it's available to rent. Then invite your friends over to mock it properly.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.