Unless. What if someone – an undeniable hero – came to the fore and stuck a nitro boost in the butt of the cinema? What if this majestic character could achieve the impossible and make cinema fun again? More importantly, what if that mighty one-person oak tree was Russell Crowe who would often say “fuck” on camera?
It might work. In a promo clip for his new movie Unhinged (released in late July here, but about to be released in the US), Crowe – who looks more like Orson Welles from the wine trade era than ever – begins by addressing on camera with some of the deceptively deep platitudes beloved of Oscar presenters. “They say there’s a catalyst at the heart of the movie experience,” he says. “A social contract. A dynamic and compelling power that elevates the cinematic experience into a realm of intimate connection between audience and screen and the stars in the sky beyond.
Then he pauses. “They say,” he winks. “But who are they? Pretentious, pretentious assholes trying to piss in your pocket and tell you it’s raining. Well, shit. Then we see clips from Unhinged, where Crowe sniffs, growls and growls and drives a succession of vehicles through as many things as possible, presumably killing dozens of people in the process. “I released a film,” he continues. “His name is Unhinged. I don’t fuck with you. It’s called Unhinged, and it’s going to be in theaters. Go for it.
To be clear, it’s still a performance. Russell Crowe may have found his niche as the joke king at all this bullshit lately, but remember he’s still such a man so entrenched in the luvviness culture of the film industry that his reaction to winning a Bafta has already been implicated. recite poetry.
So maybe it’s best to see this as brilliant opportunism. If it had been published at any other time, Unhinged would have looked awful; as the kind of cheap, villainous, and vaguely exploitative B-movie that would have made everyone sad about the state of Crowe’s career, had it not been released straight into the wilderness from a submenu Virgin Media movie rentals. Critics certainly support this. The Hollywood Reporter called it “unreachable,” Screen International called it “unnecessarily obnoxious” and “extremely stressful,” and GQ called it “pretty awful.”
But now? Now that everything else is ash and that’s all we’ve got, Unhinged is starting to look like One Great Hope from the movies. Now, that sounds like a fun, silly diversion from the ongoing hell of life on Earth. Now it looks like it was designed specifically to distract us from everything. Now, god knows, it looks like a blockbuster.
And Crowe knows it. He knows Unhinged is not a great movie. It will not challenge people. We will not remember it well. He will certainly never win an Oscar for it. But at the same time, he also knows the joy of turning off his brain in a cinema. Rolling around with your friends, loaded with candy and drinks, and laughing at the abject stupidity of everything on screen. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.
More than anything, you feel that this is the feeling that Crowe is trying to rekindle in all of us again. It might not work because these are precarious times. But if so, without exaggeration, Russell Crowe could truly become the savior of cinema.