Trigger warning: this review discusses aspects of domestic violence.

Unhinged is the newest Russell Crowe feature, and one of the biggest films opening in select cinemas since pandemic related cancellations began. I’ll get into my thoughts on the film shortly, but I wanted to note that, sadly, this film is a true reflection of society. I feel like I can see exactly what inspired it every day on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. In fact, it’s obvious given the montage of news clips over the credits sequence at the beginning.

From the white men responsible for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased down by an SUV and eventually shot to death, to the hundreds of thousands of people across the globe who argue about wearing a mask during a pandemic and abuse front line workers everywhere, to the people who point assault rifles at protesters peacefully walking down the street and who openly flaunt their racism in public spaces. These are the people that have no regard for anyone else. People who think their problems are more important than everyone else’s, no matter how small and insignificant they are, they see themselves as the only ones that matter.

Unhinged is about what we are as a society. Sure, it’s misogynistic, but so is society and its patriarchal structure. Crowe’s character – known only as ‘The Man’ – is clearly mentally unstable, not only by his aggressive attitude and mind set, but by the copious amounts of pills he constantly pops throughout the film. This is also a problem in our society.

Caren Pistorius’ character of Rachel is a struggling single mum. She is regularly late with getting her son, Kyle (Gabriel Bateman), to school, is an unreliable employee, and she can’t afford to get her car fixed. All because her shitty ex-husband is taking her for everything in the courts.  This is equally all too real.

Unhinged is society reflected as itself.

As for the quality of the film, I found Unhinged to be one of my most enjoyable cinema experiences for quite some time, and not just because it’s been a while since they’ve been opened.

Unhinged begins with a horrific act of domestic violence, with ‘The Man’ enacting his hate and rage on his ex-wife and her partner. He forces his way inside her house, and with the camera lingering outside, we’re left to our assumptions of what is occurring inside the house. We learn that ‘The Man’ is intent on causing damage. He is a level up on Michael Douglas’ ‘D-Fens’ character in the late Joel Schumacher classic Falling Down, and Crowe is equal to Douglas in his performance, in my opinion. As I noted in my article ‘The Man is Sid 6.7’, Crowe is pretty darn capable at playing the bad guy, but I was not expecting this. Heavy breathing almost to the point of a growl, sweaty, seething anger seeping from every pour – it all works.

Caren Pistorius is also great as the person whose Crowe’s ‘The Man’ delivers all of his rage and fury. She is tired, but innocent. All she is guilty of is having bad luck and taking the wrong freeway off ramp, which ultimately leads to her first, and not last, confrontation with the man. Pistorius hails from South Africa before moving to New Zealand and has done well in Australian film and TV, with work in Cargo and Mortal Engines. She is slowly making her way to the big league, having worked with some pretty big names. Caren will no doubt in time become an esteemed actress that Australia claims fully as its own, if it hasn’t already – and has done with others on many occasions.

Derrick Borte (The Joneses, American Dreamers) directs from a script by Carl Ellsworth (Red Eye, Disturbia), keeping the carnage brutal, and frequent. Unhinged is its own beast, but has strains of Falling Down and Rutger Hauer’s classic The Hitcher in the mix.

It was all quite effective – and confronting at times. Ample tension really drove my emotions high, and then when the conclusion came, a rush of relief flowed over me. Not everyone will feel this – art is subjective – all I know is that I really enjoyed Unhinged for what it was, a tense thriller. This was appropriate as a return to the cinema, as this is what watching a movie in a cinema is all about: enjoying non-stop thrill rides on the big screen.  

Director: Derrick Borte

Cast: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman

Writer: Carl Ellsworth