Cinema has more than it’s fair share of mental cases lurking in plain sight, just waiting to obsessively stalk normal, everyday folk for our entertainment. Fatal Attraction concerned itself with a crazed one night stand while The Hand That Rocks The Cradle dealt with a dangerously neurotic nanny. Pacific Heights had a lunatic landlord, Single White Female had a psychotic roommate and other, seemly endless, titles such as Cape Fear The Crush, Fear and Misery went out of their way to make audiences terrified of virtually every single person they’d have to encounter every time they left the house.
Continuing this legacy is Unhinged a movie which follows the psycho stalker template as closely as a nutter on the motorway who chooses to ride your bumper for miles just because you cut him up while you decided to change lanes.
Rachel Hunter has been having a peach of a shitty morning: her divorce is getting ever more complicated and it starting to verge on spiteful, her admittedly awful time keeping has cost her an important client and her already strained relationships with her unemployed brother and her son need some tender loving care; but all this fades into insignificance when during a burst of understandable road rage, she honks her horn at the wrong guy.
The recipient of her frustration turns out to be a violent, sweaty whacko who we’ve already seen roast the murdered bodies of his ex-wife and her lover in a house fire during the opening credits.
Thus the rage-fueled maniac launches a personal war against Rachel, targeting her friends and loved ones all in the name of justice that’s more twisted than Cubby Checker playing Twister. While Rachel struggles to stay one step ahead of her murderous stalker he plots a brutal end to his meticulous campaign of terror that will make his previous bursts of violence look like a soothing tai-chi session in the park…
To say Unhinged is an exercise in the derivative would be an understatement of staggering proportions; the film is essentially a simplistic straight line where the good guys are innocently flawed and the villain is almost cartoonishly evil and the plot moves from A to B without a single surprise.
So why on earth would anyone waste their time on something so basic when there are literally dozens of similar movies out there – answer: to miss this movie would be to miss the stupifying and entertaining slumming of one Russell Crowe. Swaggering around with the swollen build of a 1970’s professional darts player and sporting eyebags that look as round as ping pong balls, Crowe – billed in the credits only as “The Man” – charges through the movie like a juggernaut drenched in flop sweat, casually murdering people in the middle of crowded diners and roaring at anyone in his orbit in a thick southern accent. It’s a role that requires almost zero nuance but Crowe manages to elevate his one-note character simply by making him legitimately as intimidating as paparazzi photographers would have found the actor in actual real life.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast are kind of tossed aside in the wake of the villainous doughy hurricane who decimates various members of the cast at regular intervals. Caren Pistorius’s flakey but well-meaning single mother is a fine foil in a vanilla sort of way but everyone else has little chance to show any colour before Crowe runs right over them – both figuratively and literally.
The film has an appropriately nasty tone; although despite scenes where The Man dispatches various disbelieving civilians by bouncing them off his bonnet or setting them on fire, you get the feeling that maybe the film as a whole would be more memorable if it gave itself permission to be REALLY nasty.
That being said, what violence there is packs a satisfying crunch and the car crashing finale does manage to be pretty exciting but Unhinged, as a whole, ends up being a little disposable and would be utterly throwaway if it wasn’t for it’s burly star adding the scenery to his already healthy diet.
Simplistic yet dependable, Unhinged may not be worthy enough to get you into the cinemas during these times of social distancing and mask wearing, but for a simple, throwaway psycho-killer movie, it’s good for an undemanding thriller that features an entertaining central performance that’s one Crowe short of a murder…