UNHINGED – movie review

Solstice Studios
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Derrick Borte
Screenwriter: Carl Ellsworth
Cast: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Stimpson, Austin P. McKenzie
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYc, 8/17/20
Opens: August 21, 2020

Russell Crowe in Unhinged (2020)

During the 1940s moviegoers everywhere in the U.S. could look forward to a good buy for a quarter. You’d get an A movie and a B movie, a newsreel (nobody had TV), a cartoon, and a weekly serial episode. Everyone knew what a B movie was because it was listed in the newspaper ads as the second feature, a companion. To some extent, “Unhinged” is a B movie, the big difference being that given its lead actors, it may not be typically low-budget. Like Beethoven, who wrote the kitschy “Wellington’s Victory,” when he needed some cash, and Tchaikovsky who for the same reason penned “The 1812 Overture,” often used in high-school music appreciation classes because of its noise, Russell Crowe must have been in need of some quick Benjamins. “Unhinged” follows the formula of psychological thriller/horror to a T. It’s predictable, dumb as all get-out, a movie that might be unloved even by the presume target audience of teens.

Crowe, whose belly is either padded with a My Pillow or wholly natural, looks even fatter than Donald Trump. As The Man (hint: Everyman) he is more menacing than director Derrick Borte’s “American Dreamer,” about a driver at the call of a drug dealer who kidnaps his passenger’s child. This everyman (the beast inside all of us?) he is an obvious psycho who opens the movie by battering down the door of a private house and then battering its inhabitants, burning down the house for good measure.

Driving a truck, he is cut off by Rachel (Caren Pistorius), who is trying to get her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) to school on time. He follows her, bids her open her window, and demands an apology—which she does not give; the mistake of her life. Later stealing her cell phone, which he uses to track her location and to call her divorce lawyer for nefarious purposes, he gives her a Sophie’s choice. Which one are you willing to have killed to make up for the road incident? Your son Kyle, your brother Andy (Jimmi Simpson) or the boss who just fired you?

The movie is shot outside New Orleans as though to show that there are dangers out there that can compare with those of Hurricane Katrina. Even adolescents might sneer at this artless picture, with an atmosphere so gray you’d wonder whether it was filmed in color.

91 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – D
Acting – C
Technical – C+
Overall – C-


THE ICE CREAM TRUCK – movie review


    Uncork’d Entertainment
    Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
    Grade: B+
    Director:  Megan Freels Johnston
    Written by: Megan Freels Johnston
    Cast: Deanna Russo, Emil Johnsen, John Redlinger, Sam Schweikert, Hilary Barraford, Bailey Anne Borders
    Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 8/8/17
    Opens: August 18, 2017
    The Ice Cream Truck Movie Poster
    Just as the murder numbers edge up in Chicago and Baltimore, you might expect people there to dream about moving out of urban jungles into nice, middle-class suburbs—great places for kids to grow up as well.  Writer-director Megan Freels Johnston, might give them pause.  In “The Ice Cream Truck, she continues her look at the anxiety women face when in new situations, in the current case that of a woman who spends several anxious days alone in a new suburban house while waiting for her husband and two kids to return from Seattle.  (Her previous movie, “Rebound,” hones in on a mental break of a woman who discovers that the love of her life is cheating on her, then travels the country meeting hostile strangers.)

    “The Ice Cream Truck” starts as a parody of bourgeois suburban life, then unfolds as a slasher movie, a psychological thriller if you will, and succeeds on both levels.  It has the scares you expect from such a thriller and best of all a dazzling performance by Deanna Russo as Mary, a woman whose anxiety is almost a male fantasy of an attractive female who finds it hard to cope even for a few days without her man.

    Mary regrets the loss of fun that she should have had during her high-school days, as she married young, had one child, and chose not only to give up a potential career but most of all her fantasy of pot smoking and making out with boys her age.  After meeting her mundane neighbors and attending a party where she is hit on by a weirdo, she meets an eighteen-year-old fellow, Max (John Redlinger), who has a steady girlfriend but appears attracted to her.  What she didn’t count on, however, was that even the most pristine neighborhood could harbor a homicidal maniac or two; in her case, the furniture mover who simply refused to head back to his truck after making a delivery, and the driver of an old-fashioned ice cream truck (Emily Johnsen), whose hobby is to lure unsuspecting customers into his truck and deliver cuts of a knife along with vanilla shakes and chocolate cones.

    My understanding of the term “horror film” is that a supernatural element must be present—an octopus crawling out of a person’s stomach, a monster created by a machine, a dinosaur the size of New York’s Chrysler Building creating havoc on Broadway.  There’s nothing supernatural here (or is there?) so let’s call it a slasher movie that concentrates on the sexy meetings between Mary and a forward and horny eighteen-year-old Max, who has as much interest in a woman old enough to be his mother as in her own significant other.  It takes a short time for Max to realize Mary’s eagerness to embrace the years of her life that she missed by marrying too young.  And she can certainly be fooled by a clean-cut ice cream man who might have come out of the 1950s but who has interests going beyond making a few bucks on a shake.

    The pace is slow, nice and slow I should add, as Stephen Tringali, the photographer, uses his lenses to make love with close-ups of the beautiful Deanna Russo.  Some minor roles add greatly to the tension, such as that of the furniture delivery man (Jeff Daniel Phillips) who sees a woman alone in a big house and wants to cure her loneliness, and the Stepford Wives types at a party that introduces the new neighbor to a bourgeois community.

    Unrated.  88 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
    Comments, readers?  Agree? Disagree? Why?