Judge Clark Douglas once derailed a model train. It was an empowering experience.
Some lines should never be crossed.
"I got all kinds of guilt."
Facts of the Case
Charles Schine (Clive Owen, Sin City) is an ordinary businessman leading a relatively ordinary life. Charles and his wife Deanna (Melissa George, 30 Days of Night) have an ailing teenage daughter named Amy (Addison Timlin, Cashmere Mafia), who is desperately in need of some expensive medical assistance. Charles and Deanna have been saving for years in the hopes that they'll be able to afford the groundbreaking medicine Amy needs.
One day, Charles encounters a woman named Lucinda Harris (Jennifer Aniston, Friends with Money) on the subway. The first encounter leads to a second encounter, which leads to lunch, which leads to dinner, which leads to drinks, which leads to Charles and Lucinda renting a hotel room. Just as things are getting steamy, a violent man named LaRoche (Vincent Cassel, Eastern Promises) breaks into the room. LaRoche beats Charles to a pulp, rapes Lucinda and steals their belongings. As if this weren't bad enough, LaRoche then resorts to blackmail, informing Charles that he'll tell Deanna about the affair if he isn't paid a large sum of money. Charles begrudgingly makes the payment, but LaRoche demands more.
As Charles' life grows increasingly despondent, he begins contemplating risky and violent measures of self-preservation. Is there any hope of successfully emerging from the living hell that his life has become?
When I noticed that Derailed was being released on Blu-ray, I had a sudden urge to request it as a review assignment. You see, I watched the film in the theatre when it was released in the fall of 2005, but for whatever reason I couldn't remember much of anything about it. Viewing it for a second time, the reason for this became apparent: Derailed is simply a forgettable movie. Save for a handful of moments that manage to make an impression as being distinctly good or bad, the film is generally a blandly competent affair.
The film borrows elements from films like Double Indemnity, Body Heat, Fatal Attraction, and Unfaithful, but it lacks a key element that makes those films (even the grossly overrated Fatal Attraction) memorable: passion. Owen's central figure enters into an affair not so much out of unchecked lust as out of weary boredom, while Aniston's seductress comes across as dull and less-than-alluring (Aniston's bedraggled hair doesn't do her any favors, either). Their extended make-out session prior to the assault is awkward and unpersuasive; we're almost relieved when Cassel bursts in to shake things up (please note that I'm speaking of the effect this has on the film as a dramatic experience—I certainly find the Cassel character's actions repugnant).
It would be one thing if only the affair lacked conviction, but so does Owen's despair in the film's second half. He reacts to the news that his life is falling apart as if he's just realized he has a mild headache; trying much too hard to bring a grim sense of noir weariness to a role that cries for a more recognizably human sense of panic. Owen is perfectly-suited for noir (consider his work in Sin City and I'll Sleep When I'm Dead), but as a Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade rather than as a Walter Neff or Charles Schine. Meanwhile, an unpersuasively moody Aniston flounders in a role that seems tailor-made for an actress like Angelina Jolie. The film's attempts to inject noir atmosphere seem equally undercooked—I suspect someone scribbled, "Be sure that it's rainy and overcast most of the time" on the front page of the script.
Critics singled out Vincent Cassel's over-the-top villain as a weak point of Derailed, but I'm not so sure. In a lifeless movie, Cassel seems to be the only one who brings any energy to the table. His villain is cartoonish and unconvincing, but I'll take entertainingly unconvincing over stagnantly unconvincing any day of the week. Cassel embraces his sleazy role with relish, haughtily declaring, "I will keel all of ze women, Charles!" to hilariously creepy effect. Rappers Xzibit (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans) and RZA (American Gangster) also deserve credit for bringing some droll humor to their small roles—the former has a particularly entertaining throwaway line about hip-hop and coffee.
The film was the English-language debut of Mikael Hafstrom, who would fare a bit better with his next flick, 1408. In Derailed, the director fails to bring an appropriate level of tension to the proceedings, letting the movie wander towards the inevitable at a sluggish pace without providing much of value as filler (Cassel's colorful appearances even begin to wear thin after a while).
Derailed received an HD-DVD release in 2006 and arrives on Blu-ray sporting a middling 1080p/2.35:1 transfer. The film's palette is rather drab, but that doesn't mean the transfer should be that way. The level of detail is lacking (background detail seems to suffer in particular) and the grain present seems too noisy for a film made only five years ago. Still, blacks are nice and deep while flesh tones are warm and natural. The audio is sturdy enough, with Edward Shearmur's thump-and-bump score getting a particularly aggressive mix (it very occasionally overwhelms the dialogue). A handful of scenes have some moderately nuanced sound design, but there isn't much to write home about going on in the Derailed soundtrack. Supplements are very thin: a making-of featurette (8 minutes), some deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer.
Note: This Blu-ray release offers the "Unrated" version of Derailed, which is merely a tiny bit more violent than the theatrical version. Nothing to get excited about.
Derailed is a film that probably sounded exciting on paper but which comes across as a rather listless experience on the screen. The Blu-ray release is nothing special, either.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
• Deleted Scenes
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