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Unhinged review - road-rage Russ goes gonzo | reviews, news & interviews

Unhinged review - road-rage Russ goes gonzo

Unhinged review - road-rage Russ goes gonzo

Russell Crowe's vigilante movie needs more than sadism and savagery

Bad day: Crowe prepares to unleash hell

It may be one of the first movies to be shown in cinemas post-lockdown, but Unhinged is a pale ghost of some much better movies. Its headlining hook is the presence of Russell Crowe in the central role of a road-rage vigilante itching to find victims upon whom to vent his spleen – at one point he gives his name as Tom Cooper, but it probably isn’t – yet Crowe is barely recognisable as the star who bossed Gladiator or rocked the house in LA Confidential. You could almost imagine he picked this role because they paid him to loom large on screen while having to learn hardly any dialogue.

Director Derrick Borte tries to set up Unhinged as some kind of meaningful social parable with his opening montage of rioters, protesters and freeway drivers ramming fellow road-users, all supposedly driven over the edge by a society which is crushing the humble wage-slave citizen under foot. However, the ensuing story (with a screenplay by Carl Ellsworth) never gets around to exploring those issues in any depth, settling instead for a madman-runs-amok scenario which merely skims over stuff like back story or motivation.

Anyhow, it goes like this. We’re in New Orleans, where harassed single mom Rachel (Caren Pistorius, pictured left) is trying to raise her young son while coping with divorce proceedings and trying to eke out a living. She’s not helped by the fact that her brother and his girlfriend have invited themselves to stay indefinitely, while showing no inclination to chip into the household kitty, and her penchant for oversleeping and missing deadlines is wreaking havoc with her professional life.

It’s a combination of tardiness and traffic jams which leads to her fateful encounter with Crowe. She finds herself stuck behind his Ford pickup truck which remains stationary even after the traffic light has turned green. Rachel gives him an irate blast of her horn as she overtakes, and this is enough to flip his switch. Russ draws up alongside and wants to know why she could’t have just given a “courtesy tap” on the horn. Rachel won’t apologise, so Russ goes gonzo. “I don’t think you know what a bad day really is, but you’re going to find out,” he declares.

We do at least learn that Russ, who has expanded to mountainous proportions and resembles a resentful sack of rubbish, has been driven crazy by divorce and unemployment. “Violence and retribution, that’s all I got left,” he grunts. He’s already murdered his wife with a hammer and blown up her home, and now he’s about to teach Rachel some manners.

His pursuit of her, aided by a smartphone tracking app, finds him committing an extraordinary chain of gratuitous criminal actions without attracting the attention of law enforcement. There’s a horrific beating and stabbing episode in a crowded diner, while cops and innocent bystanders are mashed up in almost comical road accidents. On the other hand, the savage attacks on women and children veer towards gratuitous sadism. Go and see Steven Spielberg’s Duel or Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down instead, which are far more resonant treatments of pursuit by an implacable nemesis or the catastrophic consequences of urban stress.

Russ has expanded to mountainous proportions and resembles a resentful sack of rubbish


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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