Derailed is a pretty good name for a movie that goes off the tracks about a third of the way in and never quite recovers.
It all begins when struggling ad exec Charles (Clive Owen) misses a train and ends up catching another one and encountering the lovely Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston).
Charles’s lot in life is running him down – things aren’t going well at work, he’s got a sick kid, and his marriage is running out of steam. Charles and Lucinda hit it off, and inch toward having an affair. Who could it hurt, right?
Then things go horribly wrong, and spin out into a tale of lust, blackmail and murder, including several twists that you might or might not figure out right off the bat. It’s so relentlessly sadistic for Charles for a while that you want to give poor Clive Owen a cup of tea and offer him some cookies.
Derailed isn’t too many steps removed from some straight-to-video potboiler, if it weren’t for the fairly decent cast and the director’s mistaken notion that what he’s doing is profound. There are hints of interesting ideas on infidelity, but the movie makes hash of most of them. It’s got a halting, uncertain rhythm, with some scenes being quite good followed by one that’s laughably bad.
Still … Derailed is passably entertaining in the way a bad movie that doesn’t realize how bad it is can be. The brooding Owen, of Closer and Sin City fame, is always interesting to watch, and he struggles against a script made of clichés to deliver a performance that’s genuinely affecting and rescued the movie for me. As a malicious Frenchman, Vincent Cassel is also entertainingly over-the-top.
Perky Aniston, however, is horribly miscast as a would-be femme fatale. As some unpleasant things happen to her character, I just kept wondering, what would Ross think?
As junk cinema goes, you could certainly do worse than Derailed. Just don’t mistake it for meaning much of anything in the end.