Greg Bruce and Zanna Gillespie watch Unhinged, and argue about it.
Desire to eat during: 4
Desire to leave during: 5
I went into this movie with low expectations, knowing nothing about it except the tagline: "Russell Crowe is Unhinged", around which the movie had been cleverly marketed - and possibly written - which both plays on and exploits our suspicions about New Zealand's favourite acting export.
The movie opens on Crowe's unnamed character carrying out a series of acts, each of which adds evidential weight to the claim made by the movie's title. From there, we meet the other characters, who serve to facilitate Crowe's further fulfilment of the titular promise.
Zanna and I were both quite hungry. During the previews, we had a long and fruitless back and forth about whether we should get popcorn. An hour or so later, as the movie careered towards its boring conclusion I suggested we leave and get something to eat, possibly at the burger place downstairs. She was against that idea, but later told me she would have walked out if we weren't reviewing. She asked if this was the worst movie we'd reviewed and I said it may have been the worst we'd ever seen.
It hewed closely to the conventions of its genre: a series of super-violent acts linked by a high-tension, high-stress pursuit, bound by a series of increasingly unlikely events and coincidences, culminating in a ridiculous and bloody corny ending. Zanna, who hates violence and talking during movies, laughed during one of the most graphic murders and never once told me to shoosh, although I spoke frequently.
At one stage, I said, "As this movie careers towards its boring conclusion, I just get hungrier and hungrier." That's a long and uninteresting sentence to say during a movie, especially to someone with as low a tolerance for me as Zanna, but I could easily have said 90 minutes worth of such nonsense and she would have come out of that movie as entertained as she'd gone in (results may vary).
The question with any genre film is "Why should I watch this rather than a previous example of this genre?" and the only good answers are "It does something different" and "I'm 14 or younger". I'm in my very, very early 40s and I've seen every single element of this movie at least thrice. If you're a mature adult and you've paid to see this film, you need to write to Russell Crowe and ask for your money back. According to the top Google result for "Russell Crowe wealth" he's worth $95 million, so he's definitely good for it. Be polite though, because as you know, Russell Crowe is Unhinged.
I'm a rabid completist. I've never understood how Greg can just abandon movies, TV shows and books halfway through. It feels like such a waste to have sunk so many hours into something and not see how it turns out. So it's really saying something that I desperately wanted to walk out of Unhinged, and not because I was hungry.
This movie is graphically violent and stressful but not in an edge-of-your-seat kind of way, more a "why would I want such disturbing content to enter my eyeballs and take up precious real estate in my brain" kind of way.
The film feels like a throwback to the summer blockbusters of the 90s like Speed, but on speed, and I think that's intentional. It must be a tremendous bummer for Unhinged's film-makers that in most places in the world right now, people can't go to cinemas. The movie is full of car-crash porn designed for the big screen, which will no doubt be thrilling to some, and I have to hand it to the visual effects and stunt teams because the carnage on the roads is harrowingly realistic.
Russell Crowe and New Zealander Caren Pistorius give convincing performances as a grunting psychopath and a terrified single mother with a time-management problem in this painfully heavy-handed story. Every significant prop is signposted by lingering shots that just barely stop short of a crash zoom and dun-dun sound effect - the phone, the scissors, the licence plate - we get it: something's going to happen with that.
In trying to unpack why nothing about this film interested me, I've come to the conclusion it's because of the reductive good-versus-evil narrative. In an era when onscreen villains are routinely complex and multi-faceted (victims too), in a time when we're all being asked to look for the villain within and grapple with the ways in which we're complicit in the failings of the world, Unhinged seems overly simplistic. I think that may be the point. There's nothing to ponder here, no moral dilemma, everything is handed to you on a platter. It's a decadent creamy dessert for some - delicious, empty calories. But if you're lactose intolerant, that dessert will send you running straight to the bathroom. For me, 90 minutes of a hulking, violent man chasing innocent people and bringing them to gruesome ends left me searching for a brain laxative to expel those images from my mind for good.