by Jay Seaver
Do so-called thrillers get much more tedious than this? I don't think so. Sure, there are examples of the genre where the production values are worse, or the script is more egregiously stupid, but that variety is more likely to feature uninhibited trashiness, or the type of plot twist that causes jaws to drop in disbelief, rather than simple head-shaking. "Derailed" never gets near the sublime, and only briefly manages the ridiculous.Some Damn Fool (Clive Owen) with a Beautiful Wife (Melissa George) and a Sick Daughter (Addison Timlin) meets cute with a Sexy Lady (Jennifer Aniston) on a train. They flirt, meet up for lunch a few times, and soon find themselves looking for a hotel. Just as they're about to do something their spouses really wouldn't approve of, a Violent Frenchman (Vincent Cassel) bursts in, knocks Some Damn Fool stupid, and has his way with Sexy Lady. She, of course, doesn't want to report it, fearing reprisals from her Unseen Husband, even when the Violent Frenchman opts to blackmail Some Damn Fool, demanding he deliver to him the money he and Beautiful Wife have saved to buy medicine for Sick Daughter. Is Some Damn Fool going to take this? Of course he is. But will he take it twice?
Having the Sick Daughter character is, of course, off-the-charts cynical. Without her, Some Damn Fool and Sexy Lady are sort of just reaping what they sow for breaking their marriage vows. Sure, we wouldn't think that in real life (or at least, we might be ashamed to think it), but we might look at movies as morality plays where the act of punishment is more relevant than whether it fits the crime. But taking medicine from a sick little girl (especially a cute, unblemished one)? Dastardly.
So, Some Damn Fool goes through the four stages of dealing with a blackmailer - capitulation, confession, coincidence, and vigilantism. He comes into contact with a Detective Who Only Knows Half The Story (Giancarlo Esposito). The unexpected occurs in exactly the way it always seems to, although with an extended and more cold-blooded-than-usual coda.
I feel sorry for the cast, mostly. Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston are stuck in rather mopey roles, even after the plot starts twisting. Melissa George and Addison Timlin are fairly generic innocent victims. Esposito doesn't have much to do, other than occasionally show up and innocently say things to make Some Damn Fool nervous. There's a little energy added by RZA and Xzibit, who sort of have the good and evil sidekick roles, so can be a little more loose. Vincent Cassel, meanwhile, gets to be unabashedly nasty, and that's quite frankly fun to watch when everyone else is uptight.
Swedish director Mikael Håfström, working from a Stuart Beattie script, gets all the mechanical stuff right, but there's never any zing. The early affair doesn't have the excitement of getting away with something, the cat and mouse games never feel like they could change direction at any moment, and the finale is almost muted, despite the violence - with the aftermath containing a pretty unbelievably convenient plot device.This movie is filler - I only went because I was trying to see as movies as I could in a three week period for a Movie-Watch-a-Thon and it was the only thing starting in the next half hour I hadn't seen. I can't really see someone wanting to see this, specifically, unless they're a big fan of Cassel or Owen. It won't make the audience howl in pain or anything, and if the other options at a convenient starting time are a kids' movie or some other genre that doesn't interest you or your date, it'll pass the time, I guess.
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originally posted: 12/03/05 02:12:18