Movie review:Unhinged

By Andrew McManus

Directed by Derrick Borte

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

Runtime: 93 Minutes

Rating: R (For strong violent content, and language throughout.)

It has been 4 months since I sat in a theater and we got to review the latest film. The last movie I saw in theaters was Onward. I went with my brother Aaron and neither of us realized we wouldn’t be in theaters for several months after that night. I had been in contact with Portsmouth Cinema and their general manager Brandy Malone in the months that followed and we both waited anxiously on State mandates and guidelines that needed to be followed to ensure that we could all go sit in a theater safely. As you all know, I was one of 4 on city council that voted to require masks in Portsmouth. Covid and the safety guidelines are extremely important to me. I know many have differing opinion on this but the most importantly thing for me is everyone’s safety and at the same time making sure our local businesses can open and STAY open. That being said, I am beyond impressed with the measures Portsmouth Cinema has taken to ensure myself and others are safe while sitting and watching the latest release from Hollywood. In 2020 we can all uses a couple hours to shut off the world and tune into the next superhero flick, horror movie, comedy, or with this week’s column a thriller. I went last Friday night and spoke with Brandy before going into the film. She explained to me that to adhere to guidelines they are at 25% capacity, meaning their 200 seat theater will now seat 50. Every 2 rows have an “X” at the entrance to show the rows you can’t sit in and there have to be 2 seats between your family and others. This allows for social distancing. Masks are to be worn entering the cinema and to and from your seats. You can take them off while eating or drinking akin to sitting down at our favorite restaurants. Theaters are also sanitized after each showing and staff stop in several times throughout the film to make sure everyone is seated properly.

The options were limited last week as Hollywood is now releasing new films. FINALLY. I chose Unhinged, the new Russell Crowe film. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t excited for this one. I assumed it was him getting angry and causing havoc and it looked very cookie cutter to me. Before going in I spoke to one of the patrons about his thoughts on being back. I spoke with Nathaniel Warhuft and asked him what made him decide to come to the theater on the “opening” night. He said he was a HUGE movie buff and missed the movies. I asked if he was worried about safety and he agreed with me how great Portsmouth Cinema has done to ensure our safety. Everyone had their popcorn and drinks and we all went in to thankfully get back to the movies.

Onto the film.

We open on a dark night. Rain and thunder can be heard rumbling in the background and we cut to the Man (Russell Crowe) sitting in his truck taking medication. He looked angry and as the title suggests unhinged. A note or Crowe’s character, he doesn’t have a name in this film, simply known as Man. We see him holding a hammer and his breathing is labored. The camera then cuts to a wide shot as he breaks into a home, and bludgeons two people to death. I expected this film to gradually lead up to his breakdown. NOPE. This went straight to 100. GREAT INTRO. We then move to news segments highlighting society’s tension. The news clips truly seemed to be taken from our TV sets today. We see tension, road rage, and anger. A society on the brink of war with each other. The music adds to the tension we see on the screen and throughout the film it played a big part in keeping my heart racing.

We then meet our “heroine” Rachel (Pistorius) and her son Kyle (Bateman) I use the term heroine lightly here. It’s apparent from the start she’s a mess. She’s running late, late on bills, and has her brother and his girlfriend living with her and her son. I assume to help make the mortgage. Rachel and Kyle head off to get him to school. They are running late and if he gets another tardy it will be detention. Rachel assures him that this won’t be the case. This is obviously a common occurrence. She suggest taking the highway as a detour and of course this doesn’t work out. As she comes up on a silver truck the tension builds. This is the same truck as we opened the film with. We see the Man (Crowe) sitting at a green light. He’s covered in blood from the night before and in a daze. Rachel (Pistorius) fidgets in her seat and then lays on her horn. Then again. This is where the film takes off.

As we saw in the beginning, this film wasn’t about Russell Crowe losing his mind, it is already lost. The next hour of the film doesn’t play like your typical cat and mouse thriller. This is full blown madness. The Man wants one thing. He wants Rachel to see a “BAD DAY”. We see him wreak havoc on her life and the people she loves. That being said there are a few weak points that need pointed out. Some of the plot points are VERY cliché. The screen cuts to a license plate a little too long. Of course that plays a part. A comment is made about a phone not being locked. That plays a part. Most importantly, the police may be the slowest to respond in any movie I’ve ever watched. Think Paul Blart: Mall Cop but worse. However these weak moments don’t detract the viewer from so many great performances. I can’t remember a time when Russell Crowe has been so evil in a film. I thought he had put on weight for this role but in reading afterward it was a fat suit. It works. Also the son Kyle (Bateman) was wonderful. We’ve watched many films and the child actors are flat. He acted as veteran in his scenes and added a character to truly care about. Several times throughout this film I was in disbelief and my mouth opened in shock. Maybe it was just the happiness for being back sitting in a theater but I was pleasantly surprised with this one. Go give it a shot and if not that, we will be seeing Bill & Ted Face the Music this weekend. A long awaited sequel to some classic Keanu. I encourage you to stop in and see a movie, buy popcorn and drinks, and support our local theater. As someone who desperately wants to keep everyone safe and get back to life as we knew it as soon as possible I am encouraged with the steps Portsmouth Cinema has taken. Glad to be back! 4 stars out of 5

By Andrew McManus