This week's movie reviews - Unhinged, Broken Law and Open 24 Hours

This week's movie reviews - Unhinged, Broken Law and Open 24 Hours
Russell Crowe in 'Unhinged'.

Unhinged ****

Broken Law ***

Open 24 Hours **

 

A cautionary road rage tale for any driver who has honked their horn without first considering the consequences – and let’s face it, who hasn’t? – Unhinged (16s) stars Russell Crowe as The Man, who opens the movie by murdering his ex-wife and her new partner before burning down their house. 

Not a man to be trifled with, then, although Rachel (Caren Pistorius) has no way of knowing that when she gets boxed in at a green light whilst running late on the school run. One sharp toot on the horn later and Rachel finds herself hurtling through the suburban streets, one wrong turn away from disaster. 

Derrick Borte’s movie offers a neat inversion of the conventional revenge thriller: while the audience is generally on the side of the wronged citizen seeking a rough kind of justice, here it’s The Man who demands revenge against a world he believes has wronged him. 

Audience sympathy, of course, will lie with Rachel, who is herself going through an acrimonious divorce and trying to shield her teenage son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) from the worst of the fall-out; indeed, it’s only a matter of time before Rachel decides she’s taken all the crap she’s prepared to take, and starts to fight back. 

Carl Ellsworth’s script inventively riffs on the movie’s single plot-line (think Falling Down meets Spielberg’s Duel), constantly finding fresh ways to allow Rachel and The Man renew hostilities, even if the relentlessly tense succession of car chases ultimately proves a rather pummelling experience. Much of the violence is gratuitous, and particularly as The Man is established as a homicidal lunatic as early as the opening credits, but Russell Crowe is hypnotically malevolent as the deranged redneck, while Caren Pistorius gives as good as she gets as the initially terrified but resourceful Rachel. 

Taut, powerful and nerve-shreddingly tense, Unhinged is a revenge thriller on full throttle. (cinema release)

 

Dublin-set drama Broken Law (15A) opens with Joey Connolly (Graham Earley) leaving prison with ambitions of going straight, only to go straight back into a life of crime when his old mucker Wallace (John Connors) drags him into the heist of a credit union – a heist that goes wrong when the gang are interrupted by off-duty garda Dave Connolly (Tristan Heanue), Joey’s brother. 

Graham Earley and Tristan Heanue in 'Broken Law'.
Graham Earley and Tristan Heanue in 'Broken Law'.

Determined to preserve what remains of his father’s already tarnished legacy, Dave agrees to hide Joey from Wallace and the gardai, but when Dave gets romantically involved with Amia (Gemma-Leah Devereaux), the woman Joey took hostage during the botched raid, events start to spiral out of control. Written and directed by Paddy Slattery, Broken Law is contemporary noir that embraces the time-honoured trope of battling brothers on opposite sides of the law. 

The result is a clear-eyed homage to the noir genre that offers little by way of innovation in terms of plot, which is remarkable only for its profanity, instead focusing its energy on the characters of Joey and Dave. 

Tristan Heanue is solid as the upstanding, by-the-book garda who continues to serve the ideal of policing even as his illusions are destroyed, although John Connors’ wannabe gangster, all bluster and hyper-kinetic energy, never really convinces. Graham Earley, however, is superb as the trapped and conflicted Joey, offering a poignant reading of a man who instinctively understands that he is doomed to fail regardless of what choices he might make. A pacy and gritty drama rooted in Dublin’s mean streets, Broken Law will appeal to Love/Hate addicts still craving the old fix. (cinema release)

 

Open 24 Hours (15A) stars Vanessa Grasse as Mary, a young woman who takes a job working the graveyard shift at a remote gas station as a condition of her parole. Suffering from paranoid delusions of being stalked by her serial killer ex-boyfriend James (Cole Vigue), Mary settles in for her first night on the job, unaware that James has himself just escaped from prison, and is bent on revenging himself on Mary for trying to burn him alive. 

Vanessa Grasse in 'Open 24 Hours'.
Vanessa Grasse in 'Open 24 Hours'.

Less a cohesive movie than a series of loosely connected set-pieces, Open 24 Hours is a horror that isn’t noticeably constrained by logic. James possesses the serial killer’s usual supernatural ability to appear and disappear at will, but, having done the hard work of somehow tracking Mary down in her new job, he proceeds to drift about slaughtering people for no good reason other than he’s a dab hand at it. 

The jump scares are too improbable to be scary, the soundtrack of screechy violins and scrapy cellos is too irritating to allow for any tension to develop, and only Vanessa Grasse’s performance as the beleaguered heroine displays a modicum of wit and invention. (multiple platforms)

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