In New Orleans, newly-divorced single mom Rachel Flynn is driving her son Kyle to school. Stuck on the freeway they decide to cut across town only to find themselves stuck behind an immobile truck. Honking her horn at it, she impatiently drives around the truck. Catching up to her at the traffic lights, its owner apologises and asks that she apologises back. Rachel flat-out refuses. Chased by the truck, it quickly becomes clear that its driver of the truck is determined to teach Rachel a highly vindictive lesson in manners…
… unhooks its trailer from any lofty ambitions and instead drives straight for the jugular.
Much like its nemesis, Tom Cooper as played by Rusell Crowe, director Derrick Borte‘s thriller isn’t in a rush to get things started. Opening with a scene that clearly illustrates Tom for the unexploded bomb that he is, Unhinged takes it time building up the frustrating day that Caren Pistorius’s Rachel is having. Money problems, work problems, divorce problems, it’s fair to say that it’s all coming at her at once. Now caught in head-to-tail traffic on the school run, it’s like things can’t really get any worse. Oh, but they can and in Unhinged Rusell Crowe’s obese, middle-aged frame is here to do the script’s bidding.
That said, given what it gives him in terms of character development, and the road he has to follow, I commend Rusell Crowe for squeezing such a terrifyingly brooding performance out of such humble fare. Older listeners will remember Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down with Michael Douglas and yes, there’s a fair bit of parallel parking when it comes to Unhinged‘s themes: A white emasculated male isn’t going to take it anymore and he plans to violently give full vent to his frustrations. However, whereas Falling Down was intended to be a black comedy (yes, it was), there are no laughs to found here. As Rachel continually makes promises which you know are going to be broken, Unhinged‘s plotline becomes an escalating roadblock that you can clearly see a mile off. You see subtlety is neither Crowe’s nor the movie’s stated modus operandi. In a role that I could have been possibly more surprising and nuanced had John Goodman been doing the driving (see Cloverfield Lane and you’ll know what I mean), Crowe still gives it full cylinders with his man-on-the-edge performance.
What actually undoes the proceeding isn’t the plot though but the violence. Way off the Richter scale for unnecessary gratuity, it’s amazing that this film is rated as a 15. Now, I have no problem with red-blooded terror package but this time I think it should have definitely come in the appropriate packaging. Interestingly enough though, where the man with nothing to lose is normally the hero, Unhinged subverts that convention. Rachel has everything to lose and Tom had already embraced his eventual damnation. However, for those eagle-eyed enough to spot it, the outcome of this movie is pretty clear in Rachel’s choice of car. In short, remember – you should never pick a fight with mother driving a Volvo estate – because it’s only going to ever end one way.
In summary, whereas Falling Down had something to say about the human condition, Unhinged unhooks its trailer from any lofty ambitions and instead drives straight for the jugular. A brutish, overly barbaric vehicle in which nobody dies a normal death, this is far too tricked-out a ride for its stated destination but despite all that Russell Crowe gives it decent broodiness.