(Directed by Derrick Borte) (2020) (Netflix)
The portentous opening credits, and indeed the horrendous opening sequence, suggest that Unhinged is going to have something profound to say about contemporary wrath, taking its Road Rage homily as a linchpin: sort of a cross between Duel, Falling Down and Romper Stomper. Alas, instead we get a trashy, c-grade, repulsively violent serving of haute psychomania.
Russell Crowe (an un-named man in a pickup truck) is at the end of his tether. Understandably distracted, he dawdles at an intersection with the lights on green. This causes annoying and scatty single mum Rachel (Caren Pistorius), who is already having a bad day (what with her messy divorce, her no-hoper, sponging brother and his girlfriend camped at her house not paying board, her doddery mum, and having just been sacked by a client for oversleeping, and now stuck in traffic taking junior Kyle – Gabriel Bateman – to school) to stand on her car horn – instead of applying a quick toot, or “courtesy tap” – and overtaking the pickup in an aggressive fashion.
‘The Man’ sidles up to her car and asks, fairly reasonably, for an apology. Not getting one, he decides to teach Rachel “what a bad day is...” From these promising beginnings comes a preternatural series of ingenious and ultra-violent episodes that play-out (despite often leaping broadly beyond the bounds of logic) with predictable tedium. In fact, somewhere along the feverishly developing twists and turns, viewing the ridiculous behavior of Rachel (she’s initially feckless and stupid but then finds miraculous inner resources), one found oneself wishing a little violence on her.
Crowe is very good, as usual (he was in Romper Stomper which also featured extraordinary in-your-face violence, but apposite in that film), and everyone else is fine, particularly the hapless lawyer friend (Jimmi Simpson) who cops excessive feedback, Stephen Louis Grush as the hapless fellow who tries to render assistance at the gas station, who also cops excessive feedback, and Anne Leighton as the annoyed client, who is lucky to avoid excessive feedback). The car chases, car crashes, and other instances of graphic brutality are vivid and galvanising, but the violence is ultimately ludicrous, the characters are undeveloped, the script is inadequate, and the finale is straight out of a bad dream of Quentin Tarantino’s.
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