Film review: Unhinged

You might be tempted to give this road rage thriller a wide swerve, says Linda Marric, but it's strangely watchable


Russell Crowe puts in a hilarious scenery-chewing turn in Derrick Borte’s preposterous, yet strangely mesmerising new road-rage thriller Unhinged.  Written by Red Eye and The Last House on the Left screenwriter Carl Ellsworth, the film stars Kiwi actor Caren Pistorius as a single mother at loggerheads with a disturbed middle-aged man after a traffic altercation.

Rachel (Pistorius) is having a very bad day. With her ex husband attempting to lay claim to the house she now shares with her son, her unemployed younger brother and his girlfriend, the young woman is struggling to cope. To make matters worse, she has just slept through her alarm and as a result is running late for work.

On the way to drop off her son (Gabriel Bateman) at his school, Rachel gets into a minor argument with another driver (Crowe). Enraged by her refusal to apologise to him, the clearly disturbed stranger decides to teach her a lesson. Soon Rachel's life descends into utter chaos when the man threatens her life and that of her loved ones.

Watching this film is like watching a train-wreck in slow-motion. On top of the film’s decidedly far-fetched plot, the acting often descends into the hilariously over-the-top. It’s impossible to know whether Crowe is in fact playing it for laughs, but if that’s the case, then he should definitely be commended for managing to keep a straight face throughout the film’s facile dialogue.

Tonally, Borte’s film feels strangely outdated in the way it lays out its narrative. It is a film which feels almost too old fashioned to work and yet for some reason it remains strangely watchable. Tempted as I am to say that this is “so bad, it’s good”, there is a lot about Unhinged’s relentless and gratuitous violence which feels crass and unnecessary.

Overall, the film’s ridiculous plot might leave most audiences bewildered, but those willing to stomach this will be rewarded by its strangely comforting and conventional denouement.

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