"Derailed," Jennifer Aniston's latest attempt at movie stardom, is a thriller about an affair, blackmail and deceit, which sounds like a winner in my book except that it just doesn't quite click.
Clive Owen stars as Charles Schine, a struggling husband and father who is stretched to his limit on time, love and finances. When he meets beautiful Lucinda (Aniston) on the train to work, he quickly develops a relationship with her, and it isn't long before he has gotten her into a seedy hotel to do you-know-what (SEX). But before he can ask whether she'll call him Ross while in the act, a French bastard has a gun to her head looking for all their money. Charlie, being the wimp that he is (after all, he's a little dejected from being turned down for James Bond), is out of the picture pretty quickly, and French Bastard proceeds to rape Rachel... er, Lucinda. When all is said and done (well, Lucinda was done), Charlie's face is a bloody mess, and Lucinda has an unwanted child on the way, and neither can go to the police. In the end, French Bastard pulls Charlie into a blackmail scheme that could ruin Charlie's life, and, more importantly, his daughter's, because she's suffering from Type 1 diabetes and needs the $100,000 her daddy is spending to keep a criminal quiet on a new form of experimental medicine.
"Derailed" has a great concept and an interesting story; after all, blackmail always makes for a good concept. Unfortunately, the movie never completely clicks, as stupid characters, obvious twists and a dead-giveaway ending make the film lose its potential.
First, Owen's character just does ridiculously stupid things for the sake of the plot. When a criminal comes to you and blackmails you for $20,000, what do you do? Do you just pay him with the expectations that he'll leave you alone, or do you just come clean to your wife that you almost screwed another woman? When confessing to your wife is the less-complex solution, you know that the other option is a bad, bad, bad idea. But his stupidity does not stop there - he does every ridiculous thing he could do to get himself deeper into trouble. Granted, most blackmail stories do have some level of suspended belief, as in most cases it makes sense for the character to come clean rather than do whatever he does. Still, "Derailed" just takes things a little too far and I could never completely care for Owen's character.
Not first but definitely foremost, (SPOILER ALERT) the ending was completely clear to me within ten minutes of the opening credits. In fact, the entire plot of the film is spelled out verbally for anyone even remotely capable of processing the English language to decipher. And when you guess the ending at the beginning, you just don't care so much (which explains why the unfortunate few who guessed the ending to "The Sixth Sense" ahead of time didn't like it).
As far as acting goes, Owen is decent in the lead, though I've definitely seen him better in other roles. Aniston is so-so; I've also seen her better in other things.
"Derailed," while exciting at times and never terrible, suspends belief one too many times. If you're someone who can't easily figure out twist endings, you may enjoy the film, but if you're someone who always guesses what's going to happen within the first half an hour, you can find better. Aniston and Owen will have to wait for another film to breakout as A-list stars.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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