Unhinged may not be a very good movie, but it sure gives us a jumping-off point to talk about white, male violence.
I’d say the last 48 hours has shone a spotlight on the ugliness of a certain subset of the American populace. Driven by delusion, manufactured grievance, and a big old dollop of white supremacy, a mob of insurrectionists invaded the Capitol Building. Armed with nooses and zip-ties, they weren’t exactly there for a tour.
Unhinged tells a similar story – an aggrieved white man decides society has done him wrong, so he’s going to burn it down with everyone inside. The fascinating thing about the movie is how it talks about the subject, while being completely clueless about it.
After a confrontation with an unstable man (Russell Crowe) at an intersection, a woman (Caren Pistorious) becomes the target of his rage.
Unhinged is a rather pedestrian film, perhaps elevated at times by Crowe’s psychotic performance. Director Derrick Borte seems to have never met a bit of foreshadowing he didn’t like. Having seen the first 15 minutes of the movie, you can construct the remaining hour and 15 minutes, in detail, from what props Borte walked past the camera.
Obviousness aside, as a thriller Unhinged is OK. After a dull first act, we get a pretty nonstop burn once Crowe and Pistorius have met each other. The stakes constantly ratchet up, the body count is surprisingly high, and the film manages to be more interesting than “a car chase…but, like, for an HOUR!”
Where the movie turned me off was in it’s tone-deaf characterization of what makes Crowe’s character tick.
As a character, Crowe’s road-rage avatar is a can of corn. Troublingly, it’s the same can of corn that gets trotted out every time a white man goes on a murder spree. His wife left him for another man. His job went away and took his pension with it. He’s socially isolated. He’s mentally ill.
These fig leaves should be recognized as bullshit by now, but they keep getting wheeled out of storage every time some Duck Dynasty looking motherfucker decides to do a mass shooting. What’s never discussed is why it’s overwhelmingly white guys who do this (of the 164 mass shootings in the last twenty years, 55% were white, and since 1900 the number grows to 63%.)
The Shrine of White, Male Violence.
The trope of the avenging anti-hero is pretty deeply rooted in movie culture. From Dirty Harry to The Punisher, Rambo to Falling Down, there is no shortage of stories about misanthropes who take a flamethrower to a society that’s done them wrong. It took us nearly a hundred years to stop seeing cowboys as gallant knights or reluctant heroes. You know, instead of genocidal squatters in a place they had no right to be.
Even when they’re the villain, they get a pedestal. Anakin Skywalker didn’t call for new elections or reforms when he thought the Jedi had gotten corrupt, he rounded up some storm troopers and murdered their asses. Hell, the very first feature film ever made was about Ned Kelly, the police-murdering bushwhacker and outlaw. That movie was remade just last year.
Lone Wolf Jiu Jitsu.
Not only do the these killers get a cult of personality, they get a flock of apologists. It can’t possibly be that the latest atrocity was committed because the perpetrator felt entitled to violence as a remedy because he was a white male. He had to be an outlier caused by exceptional circumstances. Disenfranchised. Marginalized. Definitely mentally ill. Never mind that all those things can be found in every other ethnicity or cohort, and non-white groups have wayyyyy more legitimate claims to being marginalized and disenfranchised.
Borte’s movie angers me because it so casually buys into all of the excuses. First, we get all the canards of mental illness (mental illness has not been shown to be a predictor of violent behavior, and the majority of gun deaths involving mentally ill people shows them to be the victims) isolation, and marginalization. Maddeningly, it doesn’t end there. The movie goes out of its way to actually suggest that IT’S NOT HIS FAULT, IT’S OURS.
The opening montage contains news snippets about increasing road rage (what, is this 1990?!) and it is heavily implied that this is due to increasing incivility. The incident that sets off our man to stalk and murder the family of our heroine? She honks at him. He chases her down the first time, just looking for an apology! See, if she wasn’t such a bitch, he’d have been just fine.
Never mind we have already seen him murder his wife and her new partner. Never mind we have seen how her life is exactly as bad as his. Never mind she legitimately had reason to honk at the guy zoned out and blocking traffic. She brought this on herself.
No, Seriously, Fuck these Guys.
The final scene of the film just blew my top. After having half her family slaughtered, her son beaten, and being nearly killed herself, our heroine makes it out alive. As she drives away, somebody cuts her off. She goes to honk at him…and then stops. Her son congratulates her.
MESSAGE: SOCIETY MUST TIP TOE AROUND WHITE MEN, BECAUSE IF YOU GIVE THEM A REASON, THEY WILL (JUSTIFIABLY) ERUPT INTO A MURDER VOLCANO.
Fuck him. And, sincerely, fuck every single neck-beard who thought they were justified to storm the Capitol because they didn’t get their way. I hope the FBI drops you in a deep, dark hole and we can forget about you forever. Your anger is not justified, and even if it were, it does not justify your violence.