Russell Crowe goes off the deep end in this road-rage thriller that benefits from being one of the first real popcorn releases to hit theatres since you-know-what brought cinema exhibition to a stand still.
South African-born New Zealand actress Caren Pistorius (Slow West, Mortal Engines) stars as Rachel, a stressed-out single mum struggling to get her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman, the Child's Play remake) to school on time amid gridlocked traffic in an unidentified American city.
Stuck behind a large ute sitting on a green light, Rachel repeatedly leans on her horn. The driver (Crowe) takes offence, and after Rachel declines his offer to apologise to him, he promises to show her what a bad day really is, and sets off on a murderous rampage.
Although it constitutes a welcome dose of mainstream exploitation cinema, Unhinged takes itself a little too seriously. Tension is built effectively and there's a couple of decent set-pieces, but the grave tone undercuts any potential fun to be had with the story, which delivers little in the way of surprises or self-awareness.
The cast ensure things remain entertaining however, with the doe-eyed Pistorius putting her enormous peepers to good use as Rachel's peril escalates. Hollywood hasn't yet figured out what to do with the clearly talented Pistorius, and this is a strong argument for her leading lady chops.
Meanwhile "our" Russell eases gracefully into what promises to be the Late Period Oliver Reed-meets-Charles Bronson phase of his career. Although his character never smiles, you don't have to strain to see how much fun Crowe is having in the role. He suits being a bruiser.
While a little more inventiveness would have been appreciated, Unhinged warrants interest by virtue of the Kiwi double-act at its fore and the dearth of recent Hollywood offerings at the cinema.
Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson and Austin P. McKenzie.
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Three stars (out of five)
A basic, meat and potatoes thriller made worthy by its lead actors.