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‘Unhinged’ Review

Not much has been consistent about 2020, especially when it comes to movies, but you have to give “Unhinged” credit: through all the delays and theater closings it has remained determined to get itself seen.

“Unhinged” stars Caren Pistorius as a recently divorced mother who gets into an altercation with a stranger (Russell Crowe) at a red light, and has him begin to terrorize her life. Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson, and Austin P. McKenzie also star while Derrick Borte directs a screenplay by Carl Ellsworth.

While many films were getting pushed back in the early summer due to the uncertainty of theaters, “Unhinged” was actually moved up to July 1 in by new distributor Solstice Studios in order to take advantage of the open field. Like “Tenet” and others, the film was then delayed several times as the pandemic progressed, but finally seems like it will see the light of day this month (ironically its original release month anyways). So, after all the hype and delays, is the film worth the constant perseverance of Solstice or you risking going out to the theaters? I mean, no, nothing short of “Tenet” really seems like it would be at this point in time, but it is a fast-paced and entertaining B-grade pulp film that, as the expression goes, does exactly what it says on the tin.

Russell Crowe is a bit removed from his blockbuster and Academy Awards days, opting instead lately for more character and dialogue-driven films like “Boy Erased” and “The Nice Guys.” “Unhinged” certainly won’t win him any awards, but for what he had to do and be (that being a hulking, growling sociopath) Crowe gets the job done. His accent is a little inconsistent (not sure if he was going for Southern drawl and his Australian half broke through or what), but he has a commanding-enough screen presence and it’s a role that not every actor could have pulled off.

The rest of the cast is solid enough, with Jimmi Simpson doing his nice, soft-spoken he’s known for and Caren Pistorius conveying stressed and scared. For a kid actor, Gabriel Bateman isn’t bad, but he has a few line deliveries that are easy to mock.

But you don’t see a film like “Unhinged” for the acting or script. You see it for car crashes and over-the-top kills, and there it mostly delivers. I do think that much like “Spree,” this is a theater or group of friends movie, because there are a few moments that are so insane they’d only be heightened by a crowd atmosphere. Director Derrick Borte also deserves credit for creating a few tense sequences, including the initial confrontation between Pistorius and Crowe even though we know what is coming.

“Unhinged” is not perfect and you need to suspend disbelief at several points (unless the New Orleans PD is truly incompetent, Crowe should get apprehended a half-dozen times), but I think if you go in knowing what to expect then there is lots to enjoy here. Is it the most tense or well-shot film of its kind? No. But in 2020, especially when it comes to cinema, we have to be thankful for what we are given, and I think that if you are truly dying to get out to the theater again, or if this comes to a drive-in near you, then it is a great way to spend 93 minutes.

Critics Rating: 6/10

‘Noah’ Lands on Solid Ground

Noah2014PosterWhen a movie is based off a book, there are always the groups of fans that will claim the movie took liberties that it had no right to take, or that it left out things that needed to be in the film. Darren Aronofsky’s new film “Noah”, based off the story from the Bible, does not divert from this tradition. Russell Crowe stars as the titular character, with Jennifer Connelly playing his wife. Aronofsky wrote and directs the film.

People who are looking for a by-the-book (pun intended) portrayal of Noah and his ark should know right away that Aronofsky has taken numerous creative liberties. This isn’t your great-great-great-great-great grandfather’s Noah. This is a story for the modern filmgoer, filled with epic shots, hand-to-hand combat and giant talking rock monsters (I told you it diverted from the source material). It is a little like “300” in that it takes a historical event and adds mystical and mythical aspects.

Russell Crowe does a great job portraying the man who built a boat to save every kind of animal when God decided to flood the Earth. He struggles balancing his human instincts while at the same time obeying what the Creator is telling him to do. It is a multi-layered performance that connects with the audience.

Ray Winstone plays the film’s antagonist, the leader of a group of corrupt and treacherous people. He is scummy and evil and embodies every characteristic that has made the Creator decide mankind needs to be eradicated. The scene where Winstone leads his army against Noah in an attempt to take the ark is wonderfully entertaining and well-shot.

There is a bird’s-eye shot of Earth about halfway through “Noah” that shows the storm in full rage, and it had several members of the audience, including myself, whisper “wow”. That shot is the peak of the film. Everything after that is just not as interesting.

It is almost like every character on the ark has a sudden change in heart; they all become different people. Some people’s motivations don’t make sense, while other people’s choices are just maddening. It drags on for a little too long, and by the end of the film you feel like you have cabin fever from being trapped inside the boat with these people for so long.

As gorgeous as some shots are, there are other shots that seem like they were shot on a handheld camcorder. They are so shaky and so borderline vomit-inducing that I had to actually look away from the screen for a second. I’m not sure if they used up the $125 million budget before they could purchase a tripod, but it really was shocking that a Hollywood project could get away with several shots like that.

“Noah” really is a tale of two halves. The first half is full of an epic hand-to-hand battle, great story telling and that one jaw-dropping shot of Earth. But the second half of the film feels much longer than it actually is, and you simply don’t care about the character’s desires. Still, the film’s scope is impressive and the effects are first rate. As long as you walk into “Noah” knowing you are not getting a straight out of the Bible story, you will be entertained, and at times in awe. It is just a shame the film could not maintain its momentum for the entire ride. Then it could have been something special.

Critics Rating: 7/10