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Arts & Culture

Director Says 'Unhinged' Reflects The Anger In America

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Derrick Borte directs Russell Crowe on the set of 'Unhinged.'

For filmmaker Derrick Borte (American Dreamer), his new high-octane, ultra-violent thriller Unhinged is more than just a movie about road rage. It’s a reflection of American society and the country’s dangerous decline in civility.

“This anger is not even bubbling beneath the surface,” Borte said during a phone interview earlier this week. “It seems to be on the surface all the time these days in terms of people fighting over a roll of toilet paper in the store or road rage or gun violence.”

In Unhinged, Academy Award winner Russell Crowe (Gladiator) stars as a deranged driver who decides to terrorize a woman (Caren Pistorius) on the road when she honks at him at an intersection for not reacting to a green light. The minor altercation quickly spirals into a hostile pursuit around the city.

Along with entertaining audiences, Borte hopes moviegoers see how quickly something as small as a tap on the horn can lead to a more serious situation if directed at the wrong person.

“It shows how close any of us are … on any day … having the wrong kind of encounter with someone that may go horribly wrong,” he said. “I handle [those situations] quite differently now after making this film.”

While Unhinged is reminiscent of past movies like the 1993 thriller Falling Down where Michael Douglas’ character snaps in traffic, or Steven Spielberg’s 1971 thriller Duel where a driver is hunted down by someone behind the wheel of a big rig, Borte was actually thinking of another Spielberg film when making Unhinged.

“Russell’s character’s lack of humanity reminded me of the shark in Jaws,” he said. “He really does show up to just wreak havoc and then vanishes. We don’t know where and when he’s gonna show back up and what’s gonna happen next.”

With more theaters opening across the country this weekend, Unhinged could be the first movie some people see since the pandemic has shuttered most movie houses for the last five months. As long as theaters are following protocols to keep people safe, Borte thinks going to the movies is a “good thing.”

“From all the surveys and polls that we’ve seen, people are really anxious to get back to the movies,” he said. “Whether it’s that escape from their daily life or something else, it seems like there’s a demand.”

Unhinged opens in theaters August 21. Wear a mask.

Kiko Martinez is a freelance film journalist and critic based in San Antonio, Texas.