Derailed (2005)

(In theaters, November 2005) Dour and ponderous, manipulative and sometimes incoherent, Derailed is further hampered by bad casting choices and a wholly unnecessary double ending. But don’t let that deter you: as a thriller, Derailed knows that it’s not playing in the big leagues, and this basic honesty does much to reconcile viewers with the picture’s raw exploitation. Nominally yet another vigilante story in which an innocent man’s small transgression gets him caught in ever-bigger lies, Derailed easily turns into yet another revenge picture. Here, Clive Owen is arguably miscast as a passive character who eventually learns how to, er, settle his issues decisively. Jennifer Aniston isn’t much better as a tragic heroine. (Only Vincent Cassel is pretty much perfect as the criminal mastermind, even slipping in a line that only Francophones will appreciate) The story is out to manipulate the viewer, and isn’t above lying, cheap shocks and an all-powerful villain to do so. Never mind the plot holes, of course. It adds up to a cheap thriller that at least doesn’t waste too much time. The third act isn’t so good, but by then the movie has to assume the choices it made. Too bad about the cheap second “Kill the bad guy! Kill him!!!” ending. It’s the kind of thing fit to make you wonder how the entire film would have worked so much better as a silly comedy. Chances are that you may enjoy the film as it runs. But you’ll have a hard time respecting it the next day.

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