Unhinged, dir. Derrick Borte
In “Unhinged,” Russell Crowe plays an unnamed man with extreme anger issues. The film wants so bad to be the next “Falling Down,” but instead ends up as a mean-spirited thriller that relies on cruelty and suspect writing.
Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is a frazzled single mother. She struggles to get anywhere on time. At one point she agrees to meet a friend and the friend quips, “Wait is that normal time, or Rachel Time?” The first time we meet Rachel she’s slept in and missed an important appointment with her best client. Times are rough for her.
On her way to drop her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) off at school she encounters the Man. Yes, that’s how Russell Crowe is credited in this movie. We never know his name, just that he represents the angry, the entitled, and the selfish. He’s mean and lacks even a modicum of empathy. His infantile view of the world leads him to confront Rachel after she honks at him for not moving at a stop light. He demands an apology. She refuses. He feels justified to go on a rampage.
What follows is a dimly written thriller that conveniently finds a way to write around the various communication technologies we have today. For an insane man to openly stalk a woman through a city in broad day light, all while killing bystanders, there must be some generous lapses in communication.
At one hilarious point the Man inexplicably finds Rachel at a gas station — and within the two minutes Rachel was in the gas station, he apparently has time to get into her car, steal her phone, replace her phone with a flip phone so he can contact her, and duct tape her tablet on the bottom of her driver seat so he can track her using the Find My Phone app. Let’s not even bring up how he was able to bypass her phone’s security be it password, fingerprint, or facial recognition. Somehow, he’s just able to scroll through her phone without a problem.
The script ties itself in knots figuring out ways why Rachel can’t contact the police, or why the police can’t help her. The entire movie is based on this. Because, if she got even the slightest bit of help he’d be neutralized easily. Yet, this man is sneaky and spry, killing people in broad daylight and then appearing across town to do it again.
There’s nothing insightful to gain from this experience. The suspense is anything but suspenseful because it’s hard not to laugh at all the liberties the screenplay takes with everyday lives and the communication tools we use. It’s difficult to believe Crowe’s character could sneak up on anyone, really. But, above all it’s just mean without a purpose.Rating: 1/4
The One and Only Ivan, dir. Thea Sharrock
Based on the book by Kathrine Applegate, “The One and Only Ivan” tells the story of a captive gorilla named Ivan who is made to perform in a tiny circus show located in a mall. It’s sweet – cloying at times – but, harmless family fun.
The book is told from Ivan’s point of view. The movie takes that a step further and has the animals mouths moving as they talk to each other. It makes it a bit more cartoony than the book felt. At first the effect is jarring, though after a while you become accustomed to it.
Mack (Bryan Cranston) is the owner of both the mall and the circus show. Over the years he’s gathered a handful of exotic animals to put on a show for locals. Ivan the gorilla (Sam Rockwell) headlines a show that includes Stella (Angelina Jolie), an elephant with a leg injury; a poodle named Snickers (Helen Mirren); and a chicken named Henrietta (Chaka Khan). There’s also a stray dog named Bob (Danny DeVito) who’s Ivan’s best friend.
Captivity is the only life that Ivan’s known since he was a baby gorilla. While at times he’s enjoyed his headliner status, he finds himself increasingly unhappy being in a cage. He vaguely remembers the short time in his life when he was free.
His life was spent growing up with Mack. A bond formed between them — a bond that is now being tested as Mack struggles to keep the show going and Ivan realizes that there might be more to life than a cage.
Ivan has all but forgotten what it was like not being caged and asked to perform daily. That is until he meets a young baby elephant named Ruby (Brooklynn Prince). Ruby is brought in from a failed circus to revitalize the show, bring in more money, and make Mack famous again. Stella, however, wants more for the young one and she enlists Ivan to help.
The movie works as a feel-good Disney flick. It strays from the novel in a few key areas. One of them is egregious enough to undercut the ending’s impact somewhat. There’s an entire escape attempt in the movie that was never in the book. Sure, the escape adds a bit of drama to the movie, but it has a blunting affect on one of the final scenes.
It’s emotionally resonant enough to be a nice family movie. It can also start conversations with kids about animal captivity, conservation, and human impact on the environment.
“The One and Only Ivan” can be found streaming on Disney Plus. Rating: 2.5/4