The trailer for Unhinged sells something akin to Falling Down, but it’s not that film. It pretty much starts with a traffic jam on a freeway, and a man snaps, but that’s really it. “D-Fens” wasn’t completely without justification in reacting the way he did to his triggers. Russell Crowe’s “Man”, on the other hand, is just out looking for a fight. For a reason to deliberately snap and, in his way of thinking, shake things up. However, we already know from the prologue what he’s capable of. With Falling Down we had to learn as the narrative unfolded and it was a lot more subtle.

Falling Down is satire. Unhinged is pure popcorn thriller, despite its many, many attempts to appear otherwise. For starters, there’s the very on-the-nose opening titles montage of real and/or convincingly realistic footage of road rage and reckless driving, set to a soundtrack of news commentary, interviews with sociological experts, and talk radio. If this is supposed to be subliminal foreshadowing maybe a more delicate tool should have been used than this absolute sledgehammer? It’s corny AND spoilerific all at the same time. Maybe it would have been more effective to surprise us with a plot that increasingly challenged our credulity and then – bam! – stick all this shit under the end credits to demonstrate how frighteningly close to today’s reality this schlock really is after all, dear viewer? Maybe. But no. Instead, by the time those opening titles are done, if you haven’t yet got it that you’re watching This Is What Real Life Is Like Today: The Movie, you haven’t been paying attention.

Which brings us to the overarching problem of foreshadowing. Unhinged is at least 70% foreshadowing. Oh, look: she’s left her distinctive blue mobile phone in the car, look, look, she’s left it, it’s right there. What are the chances that’ll be an important plot point in the not-too-distant future? And why is Uncle Fred banging on so much about the state of the suburban road network in his mum’s neighbourhood, and in such detail? Hey, wait – are we going there later by any chance?! Every hint of things to come is so glaringly obviously laid out it’s almost as if the film itself is looking straight at you and daring you to have something to say about it. And everything pans out exactly as you expect it to. It’s like watching Well That’s Going To Come Back Into Play Later In A Much More Significant Way: The Movie.

Fat, grumpy, middle aged

Unhinged is subtlety-deficient, utterly derivative, honkingly obvious and really quite lightweight. It IS worth seeing though. Russell Crowe is just about the best thing in it and the biggest reason to check the film out. Seeing him act this part, having let himself go completely to seed (presumably for the role itself?), it’s as if Hando from Romper Stomper lived to fat, grumpy middle age. Tired of carrying around a vindictive streak a mile wide, he decides to become the Terminator for the day. How far he’s prepared to go and his intelligent ability to snatch hold of and hang on to the upper hand keeps things fresh enough, fun and moving along nicely.

Another big positive is the way Unhinged interprets the movie staple of the car chase. This is not a car chase film per se, but it has more than its fair share of car chases, and they invoke such a childish glee at the sight of vehicles flying all over the screen, smashing and crashing and generally indulging in road-based carnage. There are even some ridiculously good, crunching jump scares. The stunts feel real, not CGI. Whether it is CGI or not I have no idea, and I’ve got better things to do than look it up. Kudos if it is, it looks great. Other violence in the film is timed for maximum shock-value and it’s gory and squirm-inducing – I actually gasped out loud more than once. Praise indeed for such an otherwise predictable film.

And that’s it. That’s all it’s got. There was so much scope and opportunity to go deeper, do something more substantial. But it doesn’t, and then it ends. That’s Unhinged.

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