Unhinged 2020 ****

Since I was a teenager, I’ve been to the cinema every week of my life, bar none, no exceptions. That streak ended unceremoniously with Onwards in March 2020; the virus lockdown put paid to any notions of big-screen entertainment for a five month period. And now we have a chicken and egg problem to resolve; cinemas can’t re-open without product, and big movies won’t be released until potential audiences are ready and willing to return. The longer the stalemate goes on, the more eroded cinema-going habits become.

So hats off to Altitude for getting Unhinged on the big screen where it belongs, and sorting a UK press show for this Russell Crowe action movie. Unhinged is a short, punchy, unpretentious thriller in the vein of The Hitcher or Night of the Juggler with a beefy villainous role for the Aussie star, tonnes of vehicular mayhem, and a tight little B-movie story that delivers the goods. Perhaps I was softened up by my long-absence from the aisles, but watching Unhinged left me feeling weak at the knees in the way that going to the cinema did as a kid, when you’d stumble back out into the daylight shielding your eyes, still in shock and awe at what you’d just seen.

In director Derrick Borte’s film, Crowe plays Tom Hunter, a truck-driving New Orleans bad-ass who is introduced in the throes of a brutal murder and arson attempt. He’s a fully-qualified maniac with a chip on each shoulder, and when Rachel (Karen Pistorius) in unfortunate enough to blast him with her car-horn when he’s slow to react to a traffic-light change, Hunter decides to teach her a lesson she won’t forget. Hunter goes after her, and her family, full-throttle, in a road-rage-times-ten reign of terror.

I’m generally fussy about action films promising more than they deliver, but Unhinged gets the mix right; Carl Ellsworth’s script mines a sordid seam somewhere between Changing Lanes and Duel, but without too much of the social commentary of the former or the mysticism of the later. Instead, it’s straight-up race-and-chase, with Pistorius doing well as an empathetic heroine, and Crowe a consistently menacing presence.

Crowe requires no bona fides as an actor, he’s been great in movies like The Nice Guys and established himself as a director with The Water Diviner. He’s someone who has felt the weight of the world’s prurient interest in him; I remember watching him holding a press-conference for Cinderella Man in which pretty much every question related to a tabloid story about him throwing a phone in a hotel lobby. Such intrusive, irrelevant questioning would justify any amount of outrage, but Crowe calmly navigated the idiocy with some grace; he’d have been quite justified in lobbing phones at the heads of all the idiot journalists involved. Here, Crowe taps into the silent fury of a disconnected man who seeks to correct something about a world he perceives as having gone mad.

Tom Hunter’s unique brand of madness makes him a great villain, and provides just the right centre for Unhinged to deliver in off-the-hook action and urban thrills. It won’t trouble the Academy, it was never intended to, but there’s a long road back for cinema, and it starts here right here with a bang and a screech of tyres.

Unhinged opens in select UK cinemas from July 31st 2020. Thanks to Altitude and the FDA for early access to this film.


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    • It’s good. About 60 percent of my readers are in the US, and I feel your pain. It’s a long road back, but I believe that cinema will never die as long as we believe in it! Thanks for the comment, as always!

  1. Hooray. I’ve deliberately not read the full review because I’m already booked to see this on Monday. But I’m reassured that it’s received four stars.

    • Fair enough to avoid crit until viewed; but yes, big screen action to savour, even if it’s quite nasty in places. Look forward to hearing what you think.

  2. I’ve been to a cinema once in my life. I think I was 8 or 9 and watched the Care Bears Movie.

    Obviously, you need to make up for me. Start watching double the movies! 🙂

    • It’s a bonus to see a cinematic film as intended, but it’s looking like seeing films on the big screen will be a luxury for a while.

      • I didn’t do cinema much anyway, ours doesn’t have the big comfy seats so my back always hurts and my bum gets sore after 1/2 hour! We have a cinema room at home instead. I know, it’s ‘not the same’ 😊 but I like it more.

    • So nice to sit in a cinema, have no distractions, and get pulled into an attention-grabbing film like this.

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