Unhinged – Film Review
by Hugh Maguire
Director: Derrick Borte
Writer: Carl Ellsworth
Stars: Russell Crowe, Jimmi Simpson, Caren Pistorius
The sense of looming threat is almost overpowering in the opening sequences of this much-anticipated, edge-of-the-seat thriller, starring Russell Crowe and Caren Pistorius. Soundtrack and camera work combine to draw the viewer into the immediacy of raw rage expressed by a bulked-up Crowe. Nothing is explained. We don’t even get to know his name. And we are left to imagine the back story that has led this man to such maniacal rage. Cleverly, if disturbingly, the film’s opening credits are spliced with video and security camera footage of daily acts of violence which, it implies, are increasing uncontrollably across an angry USA and world – road rage, assaults on shop staff and the likes. We too could get caught up by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This does nothing to calm the nerves.
A scatty, sometimes self-obsessed, suburban mom and her long-suffering son prepare for school in what seems like everyday normality. But hooting at the wrong driver, stalled at the traffic lights (admittedly one who has just massacred his family), sets off a sequence of events that makes for one hell of a bad day. ‘I don’t think you really know what a bad day is..’ he says and is determined to wreak vengeance on all humanity by focussing on this one woman who has crossed him – at the wrong time and wrong place. The movie races at a pace that captures a sense of sheer panic and urgency. There is scarcely time to take a breath as we veer from one freeway junction to the next. The moments of respite are so full of tension that road chases seem almost preferable.
Arriving on our screens in this period of uncertainty we may wonder where such rage has come from. Life has its challenges. Divorce is never simple, but what fuels such aggression, devoid of all empathy or human feeling. What forces someone to enter a school and shoot aimlessly in all directions? We are not overly enlightened but Crowe captures a powerful sense of an Everyman carrying the word’s pent up fury and rage.
The script of this film is quite flimsy, but that is not the focus of the work. The director, Derrick Borte, in only his sixth film, creates an impressive sense of suspense and terror. Freeway pile-ups and bloody mayhem are suggested with what appears to be astonishing accuracy and timing. Cinematography and editing by Oscar-nominated Michael McCusker are superb and compound the sense of tension and unease from beginning to end.