During its opening credits, ‘Unhinged’ features a series of random acts of extreme road rage where minor fender benders trigger people into getting involved in ruthless fistfights, vehicular assaults, stabbings, and even shootings. With this graphic prologue, it becomes evident that the rest of the film will serve as a commentary of some sorts on the rise in road rage incidents.
Without beating around the bush with character development, the film delves right into frantic-paced action. Only by dropping minor sub-plots here and there, it hints on the motivations of its characters and allows you to connect all the dots. So if you’ve recovered from the movie’s depiction of a disturbing road rage encounter, check out the explainer below to get a better understanding of the movie’s primary characters and their actions.
In the opening moments of ‘Unhinged,’ a troubled man, Tom Cooper (Russell Crowe), rests in the driveway of his ex-wife’s home at four in the morning. Without saying a word, he pops some pills and slowly removes his wedding ring, which means nothing to him anymore. His heavy breathing suggests that he’s up to no good, and that’s when he takes out a sledgehammer and angrily marches towards his ex-wife’s door. He smashes the door open and kills his ex-wife and his new husband in cold blood. With this scene, the movie establishes that Tom Cooper is unhinged. He is frustrated that his wife left him for another man, and now he has taken it upon himself to punish the rest of the world for it.
Rachel Hunter, a divorced single mother, faces the misfortune of running into Tom when he blocks the road at an intersection. Rachel first frantically honks her horn, then overtakes him and leaves. Tom Cooper, who is seemingly fleeing the crime scene of his wife’s murder, is determined to pick up a fight. And thus, he follows Rachel and her son and asks for an apology. When Rachel refuses to comply with his demands, Tom reaches the end of his wits and sets out to make her life a living hell.
Why Did Tom Kill Rachel’s Lawyer?
For the most part, the plot of ‘Unhinged’ unfolds on the road where an intense car chase ensues between Tom and Rachel. But one of the most intriguing sections of its storyline takes place in a diner where Tom meets Rachel’s divorce lawyer, Andy. After stealing Rachel’s phone, Tom tricks Andy into talking to him by claiming that he’s Rachel’s friend. With what follows, Tom mercilessly beats him to pulp in the restaurant, and his intentions seem clear—He feels like he’s a victim.
In the opening scene, it is established that his divorce triggered him and made him the unstable man that he is now. So he holds a separate grudge against divorce lawyers since one of them helped his wife get a divorce from him. When he learns that Andy is helping Rachel with her divorce, he vents out the frustration of his own separation on him. Moreover, it also seems like Tom is so unstable after murdering his ex-wife that he simply assumes that Rachel is no different from her. He sees a reflection of his dead wife’s “betrayal” in Rachel and stops at nothing to make her life miserable.
In the second half of the film, Tom intends to continue his killing spree to make Rachel suffer the consequences of her defiance. After arriving at Rachel’s place, he attacks her brother, Fred, and even kills his girlfriend. He then threatens Fred and forces him to read out a hate-letter to Rachel. Moments after this, the cops arrive at Fred’s place, but Tom sets Fred on fire using lighter fluid and manages to escape in the nick of time. When Cooper catches up with them again, Rachel deduces a final plan to get rid of him.
She drives to her mother’s old house and drops off Kyle. She then asks him to hide inside the house and call the cops. While he’s at it, she waits for Cooper to show up. As soon as Cooper arrives, she rams into his car, hoping that it would kill him or at least gravely injure him. But Cooper, now boiling with anger, steps out of his vehicle before Rachel gets to him and attacks her again in the driveway. However, Rachel gets past his wrath again and rushes inside the house to protect her son. When Tom catches up with them, a showdown ensues between the two until Rachel takes a pair of scissors and stabs him in the eye. Although not unscathed by the rageful pursuit, both Rachel and her son make it out alive.
In the closing scene of the film, Rachel arrives at another intersection with her son sitting in the back seat. She follows the rules and only crosses the intersection when the signal turns green. Before she knows it, another reckless driver cuts across the road, almost ramming her car. Out of anger, she almost honks her horn but then holds herself back after recalling what she previously went through with Tom. Her son, Kyle, looks at her and says, “Good choice,” realizing that they probably dodged another bullet by avoiding a potential road rage showdown.
The ending shows that Tom took his road rage a bit too far. Even so, Rachel could have avoided the escalation of the conflict. Sure, it wouldn’t be fair since it was Tom’s fault all along. But in a situation where backing down is an option for the sake of her own and her son’s safety, she could have avoided confronting a nutcase like Tom. And that’s exactly what she learns towards the end.
Read More: Where Was Unhinged Filmed?