Describe This Movie In One “Bad Day” Lyric:
DANIEL POWTER: You had a bad day
The camera don’t lie
You’re coming back down and you really don’t mind
Brief Plot Synopsis: Disturbed double-murderer somehow gets even angrier.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 Mel’s Diners out of 5.
Tagline: “He can happen to anyone.”
Better Tagline: “This is not, in fact, video of Crowe throwing as phone at a hotel clerk on a loop.”
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Murdering your ex-wife and her new man with a hammer at 4 AM (and then burning their house down) would normally make for a full day. Unfortunately for Tom Cooper (Russell Crowe), newly divorced Rachel Hunter (Caren Pistorius) just honked at him for not moving at a green light. When she refuses to apologize, Tom has to teach her a lesson in the rules of the road … rage.
“Critical” Analysis: Movies about angry white dudes are almost as old as movies themselves — hell, Charles Bronson built an entire secondary career out of them in the ’70s and ’80s — but say what you will about Derrick Borte’s Unhinged, it doesn’t try to paint its aggrieved Caucasian as the protagonist.
What it does do is present a world teetering on the precipice … of CHAOS. The opening credits are a montage highlighting (in no particular order): loss of civility, increased incidents of road violence, escalating civil unrest, and how the scarcity of emergency responders(?) is leading to a rise in vigilantism.
That last one is an interesting choice, especially these days. On one hand, a police officer shortage may be why Cooper feels comfortable spending the whole day menacing Rachel even after he’s identified leaving the scene of his wife’s murder. On the other, cops show up pretty quick throughout the movie when called.
But public policy isn’t Borte’s aim (or that of screenwriter Carl Ellsworth), instead he continues to pile on examples of the extraordinary stress of everyday life. Within ten minutes of Rachel’s introduction, her ex-husband files a motion to take her house, her top client (she’s a hair stylist) fires her, and she oversleeps, which will make her son tardy for the third time, resulting in dreaded detention.
And then she runs afoul of Tom Cooper.
There may have been some point, in an earlier version of Ellsworth’s script, when Cooper was meant to be sympathetic. There are references to a workplace injury causing him to become violent with his wife, and he (initially) struggles with his actions. However, by movie’s end, he’s just a hulking brute, relentless in his desire to teach Rachel “a lesson.”
Rachel doesn’t do herself any favors. Just about every decision she makes in the first half of the movie exacerbates her predicament, an assessment you could label as “victim blaming” if these actions weren’t coincidentally performed in the presence of an unstable psychopath.
The good news, for those who are fans of such things, is that Borte has an eye for swift, economical violence and vehicular mayhem. Unhinged is a true Hobbesian construct: nasty, brutish, and short. The destruction moves along nicely, and while you won’t find elaborate melee set pieces, those aren’t really necessary when your antagonist is six feet tall and 270 bills.
Unhinged is now playing in select theaters. Good luck with that.