Derailed is yet another wannabe yuppie thriller that shows you just how bad things can get when you choose the ways of infidelity. Fatal Attraction started this trend and by now the premise is worn. Infidelity is bad. There’s no way to justify it.
Part of the problem with these types of films (at least for me) is that there is never a character to truly like. The “hero,” if you will, is only a hero because he’s not as bad as everyone else. He still cheats on his wife, so he’s a slug and deserves whatever he gets. Kind of hard to root for him, I’d say.
Charles Schine (Owen) is a well-to-do business exec with what should be a reasonably happy life. His wife, Deanna (George), seems charming, if a bit inattentive. His daughter, Amy (Addison Timlin), has a raging case of Diabetes that requires frequent care. The illness takes a toll on Charles on Deanna, but they have saved enough money to provide Amy with a cutting edge treatment.
That money may not be safe for long. Charles meets Lucinda (Aniston) one morning on the train to work. She kindly picks up his fare after a series of events lands Charles on the train without a ticket. The two flirt. Lucinda is married as well, but her husband is a bigwig who is never around. The meetings continue and before you can say “too many shots,” Charles and Lucinda shack up in a sleazy motel off the beaten path in Chicago. The hijinks don’t last long, as armed robber Philippe Laroche (Cassel) barges in, steals their money, beats up Charles, and rapes Lucinda. The trouble doesn’t stop there. Philippe has more big plans to put into action to extort Charles’ money and life.
Derailed comes billed with the token “surprise twist.” Any remote veteran of the genre will see it coming from a mile away and most likely groan that the film takes such a conventional approach. On top of the preliminary guesses, Stuart Beattie’s script really leaves nothing to the imagination when you get right down to it. Even the film’s resolution reeks of C-grade slasher desperation.
Further problems arise in casting choices. Clive Owen looks tired and disinterested by the time the third act roles around, when he’s repeatedly bloodied and has to keep making excuses for himself. Jennifer Aniston is by far the miscast of the year. The role calls for a voluptuous vixen who gives every guy whiplash. Aniston is the kind of woman you borrow sugar from when you’re all out and in a pinch. She’s not believable for a second. The show really belongs to Vincent Cassel, who plays one of the most despicable villains of the year.
Despite these fatal flaws, I’ll be darned if Derailed doesn’t at least provide some suspenseful thrills. A sequence in which Laroche visits Charles’ house is loaded with natural spice and is played to perfection by Cassel. There are certainly worse films in the genre than Derailed, but it also stands as a shining reason as to why the dollar theater exists.
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Length: 100 Minutes
Rating: R for strong disturbing violence, language and some sexuality.
Theatrical Release: November 11, 2005
Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Written by: Stuart Beattie. Based upon the novel by James Siegel.
Cast: Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassel, Melissa George, RZA, Addison Timlin