Derailed (2005) / Thriller-Drama

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, language, and sexuality
Running Time: 107 min.

Cast: Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassel, RZA, Melissa George, Addison Timlin, Xzibit, Giancarlo Esposito
Director: Mikael Hafstrom

Screenplay: Stuart Beattie (based on the novel by James Siegel)
Review published March 12, 2006

The tagline for Derailed states, "They never saw it coming".  Whoever "they" are must be the only ones not to see what's coming, as this is easily one of the more obvious twisty thrillers to come out as a wide studio release in recent years.  Poor cast chemistry doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of this film's problems, as the so-called nifty plot, derived from the James Siegel best seller, shows far too many tells to ever be surprising.  What's worse, it paints its protagonist as an idiot, contriving some very farfetched schemes that will get him into gradually escalating heaps of trouble, as he performs acts that only someone with an overactive imagination would dream up but someone would never fall for in reality. 

Derailed stars Clive Owen (Sin City, Closer) as Chicago advertising exec Charles Schine, stuck in a dysfunctional marriage and a stagnant career, waiting for that spark to bring him back to life again.  That spark comes in the form of fellow train commuter Lucinda Harris (Aniston, Along Came Polly), with whom he becomes fast friends, and ultimately, something more.  However, Charles never gets to consummate the relationship, as a deadly thief (Cassel, Ocean's Twelve) manages to invade their hotel tryst, beating Charles into delirium while he has his way with Lucinda.  When Charles awakens, he can't go to the police without exposing their indiscretion, so he decides to let the mugging go.  Except it's the mugger that won't let things go, and he wants more money in exchange for not revealing the affair to Charles' family.  Stuck in a bind, Charles secures the money, but the thief wants still more, creating a tense situation with no easy escape, and nowhere for Charles to turn to for help.

The implausibility factor rides very high in this clichéd thriller, and effectively does it in long before its preposterous climax and resolution.  Despite casting A-list stars, at its heart, Derailed is pulpy b-movie material, never really meriting the big names and sizable budget for what easily could have been a straight-to-video sleazy thriller designed for more prurient interests.  However, big names do not a good movie make, as awkward casting also weakens an already feeble premise.  Jennifer Aniston in particular never exudes any real presence to match her up with her formidable counterpart, which makes her oddly unable to find alluring in the slightest, and given the fact that most viewers will guess there's more to her than meets the eye, she's even less sympathetic.  The rest of the cast maintain the integrity of their roles, although they all seem to be pulled in from vastly different movies, each quirky to the point of artifice.

Derailed is a flawed and mostly derivative noir-ish thriller that titillates only a tenth of the amount that it frustrates.  Perhaps the biggest of fans of any of the stars might find something of interest here, but if you've seen your share of thrillers, you'll find Derailed never deviates from its predestined path to its predictable conclusion.

Qwipster's rating:

©2006 Vince Leo