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Derailed (2005)

Reviewed By Tom Ciorciari
Posted 11/30/05 16:03:20

"A 'Fatal Attraction' for the new millennium. As if we needed one."
3 stars (Average)

A well-off businessman with a beautiful, intelligent young wife and a sweet, well-rounded preteen daughter misses his usual train one morning and ends up meeting a hot, classy businesswoman with whom he will embark on an impulsive liaison that will ultimately bring his world down around him. Sound familiar? Guess what? It is.

Itís hard to review a film like Derailed without giving away itís myriad (if not oh so predictable) plot twists, suffice to say that though they may have been mind-blowers back when the likes of James M. Cain invented them in the 1930s and 40s, todayís savvy audience can probably have a lot of fun playing who-can-guess-the-next-twist-first? If you donít get out to the movies much you might find Derailed to be the pulse-pounding Hitchcockian thriller it wants to be. If, on the other hand, you even vaguely know what a MacGuffin is letís just say itís Body Heat meets Unfaithful with a twist or two lifted from last yearís Matchstick Men and leave it at that. In short, if you think youíve seen this movie before you probably have.

Clive Owen, coming off steamy turns in both Closer and Sin City, continues his string of star-making turns as Charles Schine, a character weíre supposed to side with even as he quite merrily jumps into a case of the flirts with sexy Lucinda (Aniston). Why? Well, because he and his wife just donít talk anymore, too busy are they with their busy careers and the pressures of having a seriously ill child. Actually, weíre never really given a chance to like Charles before he and Lucinda are brutalized whilst attempting to consummate their flirtation and the plot, such as it is, kicks into melodramatic overdrive. It is to Owenís credit that we ultimately do root for him, as the script would have him simply bump from one contrived plot point to the next with increasing idiocy. As for the former Mrs. Pitt, she does a credible job essaying the kind of sultry role that a Barbara Stanwick used to knock off in her sleep, though it is still difficult to watch her on the big screen and not have visions of Rachel Green running through your head. Yet it is this engaging familiarity which, not surprisingly, aids her performance as the audience is pulling for her from the moment we, and Charles, first see her shapely, bestockinged leg. Standing out in a solid supporting cast rapper the RZA acquits himself nicely, his likeable petty criminal Winston the kind of role that made stars of the likes of Richard Gere, Mickey Rourke and (well how about that!) Brad Pitt. As for Vincent Casselís vicious LaRoche, well... he does it capably, but weíve seen this sort of movie villain so many times before.

Director Mikael HŚfstrom, making his English language debut, hits all the expected notes, but fails to bring anything new to this wrung out subgenre. If youíre going to do Hitchcock you need to tap into some fundamental anxiety, otherwise you just going through the motions. As it is Derailed feels, and is directed, like nothing more than a late 80s cash-in on Fatal Attraction. And though the blame or praise for a filmís success must ultimately rest on the shoulders of its director, the screenplay, by Collateral screenwriter Stuart Beattie would seem to be going for momentum over logic here, much as he did in that earlier film, with much the same middling results. Much the same as Robert Zemeckisí Castaway jumped over entire blocks of time significant to the story for the sake of... well, youíd have to ask Zemeckis, Ďcoz Iíll be damned if I know... so does Derailed, leaving the audience to either imagine for themselves, or, more probably, not even question what transpired between scenes X and Z.

Geared for the multiplex crowd and certainly fulfilling its meager promise to the same, DERAILED, though it does no damage to the careers of its stars, does no favors to anyone of those involved either. Wait for the DVD, or, better yet, rent BODY HEAT and see what a real twisty sensual thriller looks like.

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