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Derailed (2005)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"a.k.a. 'Trapped in the Closet-The Motion Picture'"
1 stars

“Derailed” is a turgid melodrama about the dangers of infidelity that starts off like a ripoff of “Unfaithful” and ends like a parody. This alternately listless and ludicrous film is the first offering from The Weinstein Company, the new studio formed by Harvey and Bob Weinstein after leaving Miramax and it contains all the hallmarks of the typical output of their previous home–a silly story that touches on hot-button topics without exploring them in any serious or significant way, actors cast less for their suitability for the roles than for their ability to snag magazine covers and a ridiculous finale that appears to have been tacked on at the last minute as a bow to test audiences who prefer their endings to be “up” and “exciting” instead of “consistent” or “remotely plausible.”

Clive Owen stars as Charles Schine, an average guy from the Chicago suburbs with a joyless marriage to wife Deanna (Melissa George), a seriously ill daughter (Addison Timlin) and an advertising job that he hates. One day, while taking the train into the city, he makes the acquaintance of fellow commuter Lucinda Harris (Jennifer Aniston) and they hit it off. Over the course of the next few days, they continue to meet and one night, they decide to give in to temptation and check into a cheap motel for a night of illicit passion. Before they can get much further than some groping, a strange man (Vincent Cassel) bursts into the room, beats Charles senseless and proceeds to violently rape Lucinda right in front of Charles’ semi-conscious form. The next morning, Charles wants to go to the police but Lucinda refuses–she also has a spouse and child and if she reports what happened, she runs the risk of losing both.

Because Charles is an idiot, he agrees and makes up some story about being mugged. The next day, he gets a call from his attacker, who is going by the name of Philippe Laroche and who is now demanding $20,000 in hush money from Charles. Because Charles is, as we have previously established, an idiot–he feels guilty over not being able to protect Lucinda while in a semi-conscious stupor–he agrees to pay the money. This is, of course, a mistake as Philippe calls back a couple of days later demanding an additional $100,000 and to make matters worse, he has insinuated himself into Charles’ personal life by introducing himself to the family as a business partner. And since Charles is still an idiot, remember, he hits upon a better plot than simply going to the police–he asks Winston (The RZA), the friendly-black-guy-from-the-mailroom-with-a-violent-criminal-past, to help him put a stop to Philippe once and for all–a plan that ends just as badly as his others and offers him the additional problem of becoming a potential suspect in Winston’s death.

As you can probably guess, “Derailed” is one of those movies where there are plenty of shocking twists and where nothing is as it seems. Great, except the key revelation is one that is telegraphed so early that most of the audience will be marking time until the reveal from the second reel one–that is, if they haven’t already twigged it from the trailers. Stuart Beattie’s screenplay doesn’t even try to make an effort to toy with the audience–he supplies one key character with a number of lines that make almost no sense until you realize that they are only being spoken so they can be repeated during the inevitable montage towards the end when all the pieces finally begin to fall into place for Charles. Unfortunately, the only way that the screenplay can think of to delay that revelation for so long is to make Charles act like an idiot and do one stupid thing after another. An intelligent thriller would have given us a smart character and placed him in a situation in which he was dealing with people who were simply smarter. Here, we get a bunch of dopes enacting a story that could be improved by anyone in the audience with ten minutes to spare for a rewrite and the cleverness is saved for such pointless sidebars as having Charles, while helping his daughter with a book report, about the joys of a twisty and surprising narrative where nothing is as it seems–how meta!

Another problem is the strange miscasting of the two central roles. Clive Owen has been an interesting and brooding presence in films such as “Croupier” and “Sin City” (which gets a strange homage here is a sequence involving a talky hooker and a late-night drive with a corpse in the passenger seat) but doesn’t really convince as a suburban schnook, especially since he looks as if he could beat Cassel down to the marrow every time they appear on the screen together. However, is casting is positively staid when compared to the idea of Jennifer Aniston as the sultry dame whose powers of seduction lead a good man to desperate and violent ends. Whatever appeal Aniston may have–and it has largely eluded me–wanton seductiveness is not exactly part of the package. If she and Melissa George had switched parts–the former playing the boring suburban hausfraus and the later, a classic blonde bombshell type, played the irresistible sexpot, the story might have made a little more sense.

Well, not too much more sense because the final scenes of the film are an act of desperation in which “Derailed,” in its desperate attempt to find a silver cloud in a story that doesn’t need one, reveals itself to have the moral center of a porn film–not to mention the same narrative plausibility. Everything falls together in such a way so that all the bad people are punished for their actions and all the good people are rewarded for theirs, no matter what sins or crimes they may have committed. The film is so desperate for such an uplifting finale that it squanders a nicely ironic finale for an dumbass denouement in which our hero gets to punish the villain yet again and the diligent cop is not only aware of it, he lets him get away with it. It isn’t quite as jarringly bad as the infamous final scene of “Fatal Attraction” but it is in the ballpark.

The biggest mystery about “Derailed” is why the Weinsteins decided to take the film with them when they left their former home base to serve as their debut instead of sticking their former adversaries at Disney with a piece of product that is certain to tank the moment that the word of mouth begins to spread. (To that end, the studio made sure that most of the local press didn’t get a chance to see the film until the night before in an effort to squeeze out at least one adequate weekend.) Whatever their reasoning, the end result is a film that is like the cinematic equivalent of a grim one-night-stand; it leaves you feeling depressed, vaguely nauseous and promising yourself that you will never get suckered into something like it again.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13484&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/11/05 00:52:09
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User Comments

9/12/17 morris campbell interesting some good twists 4 stars
6/12/09 geoff herbert Cassell's film ... nicely executed! Aniston's best ever. 4 stars
1/27/09 Jack Am I the only one that liked this? 5 stars
4/09/08 ravenmad didn't make sense. Why risk your daughter's life for this woman? kinda dumb. 2 stars
7/09/07 fools♫gold Hey, I liked it better than the same year's "Land of the Dead"! Great soundtrack. Watch it. 3 stars
7/02/07 Helen Bradley Slow paced confusing plot 2 stars
2/18/07 neznamo unbelievable story, but not completely predictable, great twisty-turnies, Cassel is creepy 3 stars
9/21/06 Frank Good movie 4 stars
9/01/06 Nicole L. I did not know the plot andI guess it helped. 4 stars
8/13/06 Phil M. Aficionado Preposterously stupid with no redeeming qualities. None.Zero.Nada.Nil.Zip.Squat.Period. 1 stars
6/15/06 Agent Sands Unexpectedly tense and engaging. It was actually a class-A thriller. 5 stars
5/05/06 Indrid Cold Perfectly average, predictable, unsatisfying. 3 stars
5/05/06 Sriram Total Crap 1 stars
3/21/06 Zaw Could have compress the 1st 1hr into 15 min and movie will be much better. 2 stars
2/26/06 Donna A. I really wanted this to be good. I should have waited for the DVD. 2 stars
12/05/05 Cindy It was really nice! even there was something disgust 5 stars
11/20/05 Evil Wolfie Starts off slow. Overall not bad. 3 stars
11/13/05 Donna A. It's to bad about this movie. Clive and Jen it just didn't work. 2 stars
11/11/05 j poop 1 stars
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  11-Nov-2005 (R)
  DVD: 21-Mar-2006

  03-Feb-2006 (15)


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