• 20 Feb - 26 Feb, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

The opening sluice of blood and lighter fluid in Unhinged makes for an excellent entrée into this single-minded thriller. In the wee hours of a rainy suburban night, a troubled-looking man (Russell Crowe) sits in his car, glimpsed through agonised close-ups; his brow seemingly furrowed in anguish, or giving the audience a pointed look at the wedding band on his finger before he removes it. When he gets out of his car and approaches someone’s house, claw hammer in hand, we realise we are not seeing this film’s hero at work. Thus begins Unhinged, along with a fun and strikingly ’90s-style opening montage – grim, jaggedly edited, and depicting the increasing drama of contemporary living: violent altercations between strangers, road rage on the rise, overwork, war, pollution, and other hugely general signs of social decay. The blunt force of this dramatic opening sets the tone well: what follows is not subtle, but it is vaguely satisfying.

The introduction to Rachel (Caren Pistorius), our protagonist, is comparatively sedate. Her high-stress existence involves being a newly single mother, crowded into a house with her brother, his girlfriend and her son, while her ex-husband fights to take that house away in their divorce settlement. She is also late dropping her son at school, and so, with a million things on her mind, she jumps into the car with him and sets events into motion which will prove unstoppably traumatic. When she honks at and overtakes a portly man in a pick-up truck, he pulls up alongside her at the next red light and, mock-chivalrous, offers an apology if she will return one. She does not; he becomes enraged. His next words, delivered with deliciously terrifying intent from Crowe, remind her that she doesn’t even know the meaning of a bad day. But he’ll show her one. And he certainly does, as he begins to stalk her and threaten her loved ones.

Filmed with a glum, grey filter of foreboding, Unhinged is not exactly rewriting the thriller genre with its familiar victimised heroine and determined psycho in pursuit. But it is genuinely compelling – especially when the film reveals the cause of Crowe’s irrational hatred for perceived rudeness.

– Compilation