It’s been five, long months since a new movie has been released exclusively in U.S. theaters. “Unhinged” is the first film since March 13th that can only be seen OUTSIDE of your home — at an indoor cinema or Drive-In. It’s not available on VOD or any streaming service.
This thriller is a heck of a way to kick-off the return of the in-theater moviegoing experience. It’s a contemporary horror film that brutally captures the anger and loss of civility that’s become all too commonplace in our society.
Russell Crowe stars as “The Man”. The movie begins with Crowe’s character brutally killing his ex-wife and her new lover and burning their house to the ground. And it’s only 4am. His day has just begun.
Director Derrick Borte (“The Joneses”) follows with an incredibly effective montage of road rage video clips. OK – you have my attention. Then we meet single mom Rachel (Caren Pistorius). She’s going through plenty of personal problems of her own. We learn of her frustrations as she driving son Kyle to school that morning. This seemingly dull sequence serves to lulls us into a false sense of normalcy.
As fate would have it, these two strangers meet at an intersection. It all starts with the honk of a horn. Then a verbal altercation ensues. The Man tells Rachel she’s going to have a really bad day. And he lives up to that promise.
For the next hour, she — and we — are under the menacing spell of this madman in a pickup truck.
Carl Ellsworth’s screenplay intensifies the thrills throughout, often in shocking ways. Many scenes, including one at a diner, are disturbingly violent. But they don’t over shadow the spot-on social commentary the script also provides.
The wow moments are, without question, the skillfully crafted car chases. And they pair nicely with David Buckley’s vigorous score. Crowe’s maniacal “Man” is another “impossible to ignore” role for the Oscar winner. He’s vicious, ugly and totally believable. This character has the potential to become one of the great cult movie villains of all-time.
And I hope the word “cult” only temporarily applies. It’s impossible to accurately predict how many people will actually see “Unhinged”. This is the first film from a new studio — Solstice. But, hey, a young Steven Spielberg launched his career with a road rage film (1971’s “Duel”), so maybe that’s a good omen.
“Unhinged” is the classic example of movie escapism combined with layers of truth. And it will absolutely make you think twice the next time you’re tempted to honk your car horn.
LCJ GRADE: B
Running Time: 90 min.