Unhinged

 

starstarstarstarstar

 


With Russell Crowe at the wheel, road rage takes on a terrifying prospect in Derrick Borte’s relentless thriller.

 

Unhinged

As the Crowe flies: Caren Pistorius

  

Remember – if you’re having a bad day, other people may be having an even worse one. And there’s nothing so scary as other people. After all, other people commit crimes.

 

Many years ago, a 25-year-old whippersnapper directed a movie called Duel (1971). Although it was made for television, the thriller was released as a theatrical feature overseas and since then Steven Spielberg has gone from strength to strength. No doubt in the intervening years there have been some straight-to-video facsimiles, but this is the first time a major studio has taken the premise and run with it. And how.

 

The message is clear: good manners never hurt anybody. And the premise is simple. Already late dropping her teenage son off at school, Rachel Hunter (Caren Pistorius) finds herself stuck in a traffic jam. And, not being the most punctual person, she is also late for a business appointment and is fired over the phone by her employer. Then, having negotiated some crafty backroads, she finds herself stuck behind a 4x4 pickup which refuses to budge at a red light. Frantic, Rachel slams her horn and the next time the light turns green, the dark grey vehicle in front pulls forward. But, with Russell Crowe behind the wheel, we already know that Rachel’s horn-tooting was the biggest mistake of her life…

 

No doubt there are holes in Carl Ellsworth’s ingenious screenplay, but the narrative moves at such a measured, empowered pace that there’s little time to take stock. Whether it’s the subversive thrill of being in a public cinema again, or the simple idea of a total stranger bent on destroying your life, this critic, at times, was on the verge of having a panic attack.

 

Caren Pistorius, the New Zealand actress who plays Rachel – so good in Slow West and Gloria Bell – pretty much runs the show. As her indignation turns to terror, every dramatic turn is reflected in the features of her face. Think Tom Hardy in Locke and you’ll be in the right lane. As the human embodiment of road rage, Russell Crowe changes emotional gear with terrifying ease. At first calm and imposing and then feverish and unhinged, he is a force of irrational frenzy.

 

One fears that at the eleventh hour the film may cop out, but it maintains its well-oiled path of heart-stopping suspense to its logical conclusion. Of course, it’s no more than a generic thriller, but it’s one that shreds any hope of hanging onto one’s critical faculties.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson, Austin P. McKenzie.

 

Dir Derrick Borte, Pro Lisa Ellzey, Andrew Gunn and Mark Gill, Screenplay Carl Ellsworth, Ph Brendan Galvin, Pro Des Freddy Waff, Ed Michael McCusker, Steve Mirkovich and Tim Mirkovich, Music David Buckley, Costumes Denise Wingate, Dialect coach Judi Dickerson.

 

Ingenious Media/Burek Films-Altitude Film Distribution.

93 mins. USA. 2020. Rel: 31 July 2020. Cert. 15.