Unhinged: Road Rage Thriller Has Just Enough Mileage In the Tank

Let it be known, Unhinged was the first movie to do a wide theatrical release amidst COVID. That may be a good, bad, or completely indifferent fact. But in a year where studios delayed our most anticipated movies, Russell Crowe and company braved the pandemic and hit our local cineplexes. It’s April and I’m just reviewing this movie, so I obviously waited for Neflix to stream Unhinged . Just how good or bad Unhinged may have been is hard to gauge. Most people were avoiding theaters when it was releases. Critics were mostly divided. Still with so few original releases available, Unhinged offers the promise of guilty-pleasure viewing. It’s mix of Duel and Joy Ride may not be original, but a simple psycho-thriller with mindless suspense to spare isn’t a bad thing.


On her way to drop her son off at school, Rachel gets caught in gridlock traffic. Pressed for time, Rachel honks at an idling car sitting through a green light. Unfortunately, Rachel picks the wrong car, the wrong person, and the wrong time. Inside that car is a man who is a ticking timebomb. And when Rachel refuses to apologize to him, she only makes matters worse. Now Rachel must race against time and a man hellbent on ensuring understands the meaning of a ‘bad day’.

Unhinged Makes Up For Substance With Pure Roller Coaster Suspense

Think of Unhinged like a rollercoaster. You can stand back and see exactly where all the twists and turns are going to happen. Even from the tarmac you can see what you’re signing up for. Like the psycho-thrillers of the 1990s, Unhinged is more about the journey than the destination. Director Derrick Borte takes Carl Ellsworth’s (Disturbia, The Last House on the Left) straightforward screenplay and injects a surplus of adrenaline into it. That is, Unhinged rarely eases up on its action and suspense once Borte gets the ball rolling. And Unhinged wastes little time getting to the meat of its story. Everything about the movie is entirely implausible. Consider this one of those movies that requires you to shut your brain off for 90 minutes or so. Nonetheless, there’s more than a handful of genuinely uncomfortable and tense moments.

Unhinged is more about the journey than the destination.

However, Unhinged makes up for a predictable story with some surprising violence. Straight out of its opening scene, this road rage thriller shows it’s not a going to be a subtle psycho-thriller. Don’t expect a grimy exploitation movie. Nothing in Unhinged comes close to Rob Zombie or Eli Roth fare. That is, Unhinged is an exploitation movie dressed up with a decent budget and shiny cinematography. Borte ensures all of the action and suspense scenes are sharp and crisply filmed. If this is a rollercoaster of a movie, it’s a pretty damn effective roller coaster. You’ll need to shut your brain off at the door, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Unhinged is Mindless Fare Benefitting From a Frightening Turn From Crowe

In some ways, Unhinged feels a bit dated already. To put it another way, ‘road rage’ hit its moral panic stage about a decade ago. This isn’t exactly ‘ripped from the headlines’ stuff anymore. Of course, Unhinged isn’t particularly interested in any kind of deeper subtext. Borte and Ellsworth could have lent their movie some social immediacy by adding some layers to the story. Angry white men raging against society is arguably more relatable today than road rage. But Unhinged isn’t that kind of movie – this is pure popcorn thriller fare.

…Crowe reminds audiences that he’s an Oscar winner for a reason.

Make no mistake about it, Unhinged is Russell Crowe’s movie. And that’s not to suggest that the other performances are subpar. As the target of The Man’s rage, Caren Pistorius (Cargo) absolutely convinces as a woman desperate to save her son and family. But Crowe reminds audiences that he’s an Oscar winner for a reason. There’s no scenery chewing here. Crowe is just absolutely menacing, almost seething with rage. Regardless of what you think of the movie, Crowe gives us one of the scariest human villains in recent movie memory. Though Unhinged isn’t interested in any deep storytelling, Crowe’s ‘The Man’ channels the same entitlement and distortions found in the recent Incel subculture.

Unhinged Offer Undemanding Escapist Fare

Whether Unhinged is a good movie somewhat depends on your expectations. If Russell Crowe’s name above the title somehow implied that this was Oscar-caliber fare, you’ll be disappointed. But if you watched the movie’s trailer and you’re just looking for 90 minutes of escapist fare, you can do a lot worse than Unhinged. It’s predictable, implausible, and completely lacking any substance. Yet it also delivers on exactly what it promises. Specifically, Unhinged delivers a steady dose of tension, thrills, and white-knuckle moments. And Russell Crowe is terrifying – even if he’s not throwing a phone at anyone. You may never watch it again, but Unhinged is worth a look.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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