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"Derailed" Movie Review

Clive Owen Plays the Wimp While Jennifer Aniston Tries to Heat Things Up

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Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston in

Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston in "Derailed"

© Weinstein Company
If you’re attacked by a violent criminal bent on making your life a living hell, the first thing to do is call the cops. It doesn’t matter what you were doing, or who you were doing it to, at the time of the crime. Make the call. That’s the lesson learned by Clive Owen’s character in the thriller, “Derailed,” adapted from a James Siegel novel by Stuart Beattie (“Collateral”) and directed by Mikael Hafstrom.

Owen stars as Charles Schine, an advertising executive who’s having trouble at home. He and his lovely wife (Melissa George) have grown distant, barely acknowledging each other’s presence other than to occasionally needle one another over trivial household things. It’s a marriage that seems held together only for the sake of their very sickly daughter (played by Addison Timlin, who I at first mistook for Kristen Stewart).

Charles has never cheated on his wife and doesn’t set off to do so on the day he forgets to stop at the ATM and pick up money to pay for his train fare to work. But when a pair of gorgeous calves encased in black nylons and ending in a pair of take-me-now-big-boy stilettos offers to purchase his ticket, he’s intrigued. Lucinda Harris (Jennifer Aniston), a high-priced financial advisor, is attached to the legs and turns out to possess other attributes equally as attractive to Charles as her fine-looking stems.

The two hit it off, commiserating over their marital problems, and comparing notes on raising daughters. The simple flirtation quickly moves to something more intimate and with barely anything said, they decide to sleep together. The cheating twosome wind up at a seedy hotel where, just as they are about to engage in sex, they’re surprised by a vicious intruder named Laroche (Vincent Cassel) who beats the crap out of Charles and rapes Lucinda.

Since they were in the middle of committing adultery, Lucinda won’t let Charles call the police and report the rape and robbery. Instead, they clean themselves up and scuttle home to their respective spouses.

Unfortunately for Charles, it’s not the last he hears from Laroche. The incident at the hotel is just the beginning of Laroche’s intrusion into Charles’ life. He wants money - big money - from Charles and knows the family man will have to play along since he’s not about to go to the cops. Everything could change with just one call to the authorities, but because Charles is determined to keep his wife in the dark about his dirty deed, Laroche’s power over Charles increases exponentially until finally the breaking point is reached.

Of course, had Charles called the cops there would be no story. The film would have rolled its credits after the first half hour and for some critics who took in the same preview screening of “Derailed” as I did, that would have been a very charitable act by the filmmaker. Chatting up a couple of those critics, their main complaint about “Derailed” was that Owen and Aniston just don’t seem to fit.

Granted, it’s a little unnerving to see Clive Owen play someone who’s on the losing end of fistfights. It’s also unnerving to see the cutesy girl next door Jennifer Aniston sex it up and then play the victim of a rape. But if both actors only chose the roles we expect of them, then we’d be lamenting their lack of versatility. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say Aniston is resting on her “Friends” laurels and Owen can only play sexy yet menacing roles, and then turn around and knock both actors for accepting parts that are completely against type. That’s more than a little hypocritical.

My complaint about “Derailed” doesn’t lie in the casting of Owen and Aniston. In fact, I think Owen’s excellent as a family man who is emasculated (almost literally) by a no-account thug. And Aniston may not be perfect as the vixen who almost lures Owen away from wife, but she’s more than passable in the role. What I hate is the fact you can smell the plot twist coming a mile away. I don’t like to have my surprise endings spelled out for me a quarter of the way into a film and “Derailed” does just that.

Overall, “Derailed’s” a decent enough thriller with a couple of really good performances from actors in supporting roles. RZA is particularly fine as Charles’ co-worker who tries to help him work his way free of Laroche’s hold, and Vincent Cassel chews the scenery like nobody’s business. But this is really Owen’s film to make or break and because he’s so magnetic onscreen, he’s able to just barely overcome the ill-will built up by the telegraphed ending.

GRADE: B-

"Derailed" was directed by Mikael Hafstrom R for strong disturbing violence, language and some sexuality.

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