The opening credits for Unhinged paint a pretty bleak and horrific snapshot of human life, just to get us in the mood for what’s to come. Footage of actual road rage incidents, supermarket disagreements and brawls, cars crashing into each other, all while recordings of news readers talk about how stressed and angry we all are these days. I think that in the current climate, we can all appreciate just how angry the world seems to have become these last few months, and some of these scenes really hit home.
We’d already seen just how angry Russell Crowe’s character is (billed as ‘The Man’, although he later introduces himself as Tom Cooper), courtesy of a shocking little pre-credits scene. Sitting in his car at night, rain beating down on the car as he breathes heavily and pops some pills into his mouth. Slowly turning a wedding ring on his finger, he removes it, tossing it behind him onto the backseat. Taking a hammer, he gets out of the car and walks to the front door of the house he’d parked outside, before smashing it down and proceeding to use the hammer on the occupants. He’s clearly not the kind of person you want to get on the wrong side of.
The person that does manage to get on his wrong side is Rachel (Caren Pistorius), who’s also having a pretty bad day of her own. Waking up late on the sofa, we learn that she’s currently going through a divorce, with her ex-husband wanting her house. She’s also late in taking her son to school, so when they hit heavy traffic along the way, it’s the last thing she needs.
At some traffic lights, the large SUV she’s sitting behind doesn’t budge when the lights turn green, so Rachel lets out a series of long beeps on the horn, before eventually pulling around the SUV to continue on her way. Unfortunately for her though, when they hit more traffic further down the road, the SUV pulls up alongside her, and when the window rolls down, we see that it’s ‘The Man’ behind the wheel. He’s calm at first, if a little on edge, but after apologising for his mistake, demands the same from Rachel before they go their separate ways. Unfortunately though, Rachel isn’t prepared to offer an apology. “I need you to learn what a bad day is and I need you to learn how to say sorry” he growls, before Rachel pulls away, believing that to be the end of it.
What follows is an intense game of cat and mouse, as ‘The Man’ relentlessly stalks Rachel through the roads and highways. Just to make things worse, ‘The Man’ manages to get hold of Rachel’s phone and starts to threaten and target her close friends and family. We’ve already seen just how Unhinged he can be, and there’s more of that as the movie progresses and he gets a chance to carry out some of those threats. He’s not just out to kill Rachel, but to give her the worst possible day he can before that moment arrives.
Crowe is suitably menacing – overweight and sweaty, taking out anyone who gets in his way and methodical in his determination to catch Rachel. The movie does try to humanise him a little at times though, as we discover that he’s been through a relationship breakdown, and was laid off work just a few weeks short of retiring, as if trying to provide some justification for his behaviour.
Unhinged comes in at just over 90 minutes and proved to be a real intense, gut wrenching roller-coaster ride. I don’t know if I was just a bit giddy at being back in the cinema for the first time since March, but I found it to be a lot of fun.
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