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(AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

 

The actor is using his newest thriller to bring some action to long dormant theaters in the US.

As a writer covering the entertainment industry the past months have been a challenge, as there is only so much coverage you can give to the non-activity that results from a pandemic shutdown. There may be some relief finally arriving as it appears that movie theaters are poised to finally reopen, and that is being provoked by a new Russell Crowe action piece, ‘’Unhinged’’.

I was able to speak with Crowe, as well as well as director Derrick Borte and producer Mark Gill about not just their upcoming film but the challenges and machinations behind getting this title into theaters. Shot last summer on an efficient $30 million budget ‘’Unhinged’’ sees Crowe playing an unstable driver who has a chance encounter with a single mother behind the wheel. Their interplay moves from annoyance, to road rage, and then grows into an all encompassing terror. Crowe delivers a menacing performance of a man losing control and driven by pure anger.

When asked where he tapped into for this rage the actor had a unique answer. ‘’As far as motivation, I don’t possess that level of anger,’’ said Crowe, ”but I found that while I was taken in by this script, I did not like this guy. I used my anger towards this character to display that anger.’’ While there was a definite feel of another road rage film from years back, the Michael Douglas thriller ‘’Falling Down’’, director Borte was not channeling that film. ”I didn’t use that as an inspiration. I saw this character more like the shark in ‘’Jaws’’. There is no reason for it, but he just keeps coming for you.’’’

As it was filmed far enough ahead of the viral outbreak the Covid madness did not play a part in the storyline — but it certainly was a factor following initial filming. The production went through the standard filming process, but after fighting through a number of factors following principal photography the production faced its biggest Covid-related challenge — the release. Initially slated for a late September premiere a number of large tentpole films were rescheduled, and ‘’Unhinged’’ was soon sharing a release date with the highly anticipated sequel ‘’A Quiet Place Part 2’’. 

In looking for alternate dates the cleared out summer slate held a growing appeal, and a few dates were initially pegged in June or July, only to see those scuttled as the shutdown across states continued. Crowe said to the production team that this was a favorable environment. ”There are no other cars on the road. If we get out there we can floor it.’’ Eventually a deal was struck with exhibitors, and the film will have its debut next Friday. This is coinciding with the recent announcement that AMC Theaters is beginning its gradual reopening of 100 theaters.

The role is a much more villainous one than usual for Crowe, and he says that this is a result of a full career now allowing him to get into characters he previously had not touched on. ”Yea, it seems I am into a darker period,’’ he said with a chuckle. ”I just finished playing Roger Ailes, now this one, and even in my upcoming movie ‘’The Georgetown Project’’. (In that he plays an actor on a horror movie who unravels on a personal level that parallels his character.) ”I have not really played many of these types of characters, so it is actually something I can do enthusiastically now, as I have more freedom to explore things I haven’t done before.’’ This became something that drew him to the role in ‘’Unhinged’’.

At first I did not like it, just was not interested. But when choosing scripts you have to have an interest, something that pulls at you. I found after reading this one, I kept thinking about it.’’ It then took a conversation that Crowe had with director Borte. ”I didn’t like this guy, and actually I was scared of the reality behind his anger. At first it was not something I wanted. But once I spoke with Derrick I saw exactly what we could do with him, and then I was there. Yea, we have to make this’’’

The film is benefitting from not only a matter of good timing, with theaters just coming back on line, but also by delivering what the audiences want. Producer Mark Gill said they have done extensive polling to get a feel of what audiences expect, and what they want. He found that 80%  of movie fans were eager to get back inside theaters, ready for just about any content. When they probed further for the type of films they most want to see on the big screen, ‘’thrillers’’ was the top choice.

With distancing standards the theaters are going to be seating at 25-50% capacity, compensating this by some locations showing the title in multiple theaters. ‘’Unhinged’’ is opening on 2,000 screens, Friday August 21. The popcorn should be flowing next weekend — FINALLY.

 

Brad Slager
Covering politics, as well as the business side of Show Business. Expert in fine bourbons, good cigars, competent hockey teams, and horrible movies.

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