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Review: Road rage thriller 'Unhinged' runs out of gas

Russell Crowe stars in receptacle for white male angst

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

There's plenty to rage about in the road rage thriller "Unhinged," mostly the stupidity of its plot and the incoherence of its execution. 

Russell Crowe plays the last guy you want to honk at for not proceeding through a green light. He's simply known as The Man — no names, that would suggest he's inhabiting an actual character — who in the opening is seen burning down a house (probably his own? Who really knows) and killing everyone inside.

Russell Crowe in "Unhinged."

Rachel (Caren Pistorius) has the misfortune of pulling up behind The Man at a traffic light. When he doesn't go at green, she honks, setting him off on an irrational killing spree where he stalks those closest to her in order to... get revenge for being rightfully honked at? 

Director Derrick Borte treats "Unhinged" as a grindhouse horror movie, and Crowe's Man is the Michael Myers figure at its center. (Fun fact: in "Halloween," Myers was initially known only as "The Shape.") Still, that context doesn't let it off the hook, and the script by Carl Ellsworth falls apart the more seriously it takes itself and the further its central situation escalates into cliché.

Newsreel footage over the opening credits attempts to frame "Unhinged" as a reflection of our current moment: tensions are high, society is becoming unglued, etc. But attempting to make "Unhinged" some sort of cautionary tale undoes any fun that could be mined from the ridiculousness of its premise. 

Worst of all is Crowe, an Oscar winner who lends the project a gravitas it doesn't warrant or earn. He's got every right to be angry, mostly that he's in a project as beneath him as this ugly piece of trash cinema. 

'Unhinged'

GRADE: D

Rated R: for strong violent content, and language throughout

Running time: 90 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama