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DERAILED

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassel, Melissa George, Addison Timlin, Xzibit, RZA
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Weinstein Company
Features: See Review
Length: 112 Minutes
Release Date: March 21, 2006

“Keep something in mind, Charles. I’ll always be one step ahead of you, ALWAYS.”

Film ***

Here’s a movie that couldn’t have had a better title. Derailed is a tense thriller that ushers in some disturbing twists on the traditional thrillers involving married individuals engaging in illicit affairs. Thankfully, this is not a direct clone of films like Unfaithful and Fatal Attraction.

I mention that it has a perfect title because about twenty minutes into the movie, the entire story feels as if the story has overturned in the most unimaginable way. It opens in on the work and personal life of Charles Schine (Clive Owen), a Chicago advertising exec. Both his professional and married life have seen better days.

How stressful is Charles’ life? Where to begin; his only daughter, 13 year old Amy (Addison Timlin), has diabetes and a third kidney transplant has failed. He’s taken out another mortgage on his home after purchasing a dialysis-like device so that she doesn’t have to go to the hospital every night.

And his marriage to Deanna (Melissa George) has lost something it once had; communication. Their busy work schedules and the increasing concern over the daughter’s condition has drawn an amazing distance between them. And as for his work life Charles, who’s usually terrific at his job, has just lost his biggest account.

One morning, while taking the commuter train to work, Charles has a chance encounter with Lucinda Harris (Jennifer Aniston). Their chance meeting comes as a result of him forgetting his wallet and not being able to pay the ticket fee. She steps in and agrees to pay for him. The two start to chat, and sparks begin to fly.

It isn’t too long before Charles makes a crucial decision, to call up Lucinda and meet her for drinks. The two continue to flirt, despite the fact that both are married and have a family. Despite reservations of taking this any further, they get a hotel room and proceed to break the rules.

And here is when Derailed begins to, well, derail. As they engage in passionate love making, they are interrupted by a thug with a gun named LaRoche (Vincent Cassel). At first, it appears that all he wants is money, but once discovering two are cheating on their loved ones LaRoche elevates to an unthinkable act.

In the aftermath, the Charles and Lucinda are lost as to what should be done next. Charles thinks they should go to police, but Lucinda points out that if they do that, their brief infidelity will be exposed. He agrees, and simply tells his wife that the bruises on his face are from a mugging.

So by now, Charles tries to forget all that has just happened and get back to his normal life. But then another unexpected turn develops; LaRoche calls his house and ignites a nasty bit of blackmail. He forces Charles to give him money, the very kind of money that he can only get by stealing from his account at work. By now, it’s clear that LaRoche will not stop taunting for any reason.

The most interesting thing about Derailed is that it’s not that hard to guess the big plot twist (in fact, you may find yourself guessing it earlier than you think), and yet the movie remains a tightly wound thriller with some genuinely startling moments. It also helps that there are a couple of nice surprises after the big twist is revealed. The very last moment of the movie caught me entirely by surprise.

And the movie also benefits from a strong cast, anchored by the ultra-cool and dynamic Clive Owen. Owen, who was always my top choice for James Bond, carries any movie flawlessly, and Derailed provides him his biggest role yet. He’s in nearly every scene of the film, and even as his character is forced to go forth with unthinkable actions, we are with him and root for him to make it out alive and unscathed. And Jennifer Aniston, who I’ve never been too crazy about, is very good in what is very much a huge departure from her usual romantic comedy roles.

And then there’s Vincent Cassel, who succeeds in delivering one of the nastiest villains in recent memory. LaRoche is in the tradition of terrific and intense heavies (Max Cady in Cape Fear certainly comes to mind), and his relentless force that is used in preying on Charles has us just waiting for his demise. Lastly, there is strong supporting work from rap stars Xzibit, as LaRoche’s criminal partner, and RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan as Winston, a friend and work associate of Charles’.

Derailed is quite a suspenseful ride, and a satisfying one at that. A twist you might see coming, but others will definitely surprise you. The end result is strongly acted and stylish thriller that is a must see for fans of the genre.

Video ***

The first DVD release from The Weinstein Company, formerly Miramax, has a good enough anamorphic widescreen picture. I’m so used to seeing one great presentation after another, and the only reason this only gets this rating is because I saw more bits of grain than I’ve seen recently, especially for a new release. But for the most part, the presentation does have an all around nice picture quality. Colors are vibrant and image quality is sharp for the most part.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 mix helps in delivering the suspenseful goods. The jolting bits of suspense result in riveting bits of audio. Edward Shearmur’s music score also gets tremendous treatment. Another strong part of the sound performance is the picking up of distinct sounds from the side and the rear, which is more frequent than you may expect. Quite an effective listen.

Features **

This Unrated edition is quite light on the extras, but it could be worse. Included is a behind the scenes featurette, some deleted scenes, and a theatrical teaser and trailer.

Summary:

Derailed is a well-crafted and executed suspense piece that goes in many unexpected directions, resulting in a most hair-raising wild ride. The cast is dynamite and the tension is consistent.

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