Somebody had to go first. That’s the thought behind why Solstice Studios is releasing the thriller “Unhinged” to more than 1,400 open theaters across the U.S. on Friday. It will be the first new release since COVID-19 shuttered theaters in late March.
AMC plans to reopen more than 100 U.S. locations and other chains like Regal Cinemas and Alamo Drafthouse will also open this weekend. Cinemark started its phased reopening last weekend. And it won't just be audiences watching what happens. Hollywood will be watching to see how the theaters and this film do over the next few weeks to indicate whether the movie industry can bounce back after coronavirus.
“Unhinged” follows a bad day, a really bad day, for Rachel (Caren Pistorius) as she is harassed and stalked by an unstable stranger named Top Cooper (Russell Crowe.) Her nightmare begins with a road rage incident and an unrelenting Cooper adeptly out maneuvering her every step.
Crowe says he hopes the story allows people to escape a lot of the anger and frustration they might be feeling in their own life right now and let the characters on screen play out the drama instead.
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“We’ve gotten into this pattern, where we can’t help ourselves. We have to have an aggressive angry response to everything,” Crowe says. “One of the things this film does is it puts it right in the face of people and says, do you really need to win like half a point with your response or can you just get on with your day?”
In the film, Cooper can’t seem to get on with his day. He is boiling over with rage so palpable you’d think Crowe needed a hug or therapy after each take. The Academy Award winner says he can easily tap into those powerful emotions after being in the business for more than 50 years. He also says working at a pub with his father when he was a teen helped him see a unique side of life as well.
“I did my first acting role in 1970 when I was 6-years-old,” Crowe says. “I had very unusual experiences when I was growing up. My dad put my brother and I in some extremely challenging situations. At the age of 14, he put me in a white shirt and a black bowtie and he made me be a bouncer. And you certainly learn about the positives and negatives of human interaction when you’re doing that.”
Human interaction is few and far between these days while most of the population continues to observe social distancing, and work from home. But Solstice Studios and Crowe are hoping to lure them out long enough to watch their film. And as the only new film at the box office, they really can’t lose.
“This is actually, in a reverse psychological perspective, what people want. They want to be in a situation where they’re reaching towards a normalcy that they're missing. And they want to be in a situation where all the crazy stuff is happening on the screen. It’s not happening in their real lives."
“Unhinged” opens in theaters nationwide except California, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York, on Friday Aug. 21. It was directed by Derrick Borte with screenplay by Carl Ellsworth.