Derailed (2005)Rated R for strong disturbing violence, language and some sexuality.
Starring Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassel, Melissa George, Addison Timlin, Xzibit, RZA.
LVJeff's Rating: 5/10
Photo ©The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.
Cheap Thrills with French Villains
What is it with Vincent Cassel being cast in American movies as slimy French villains? In Ocean's Twelve, he played the rival master thief, a snobby, slightly effete bully who viewed a game of oneupmanship as an equivalent to asserting one's manhood. In this new movie, Derailed, he's like the same guy, only meaner -- a condescending creep you can't wait to see get his just desserts. Even though this character speaks with a normal American accent, he can slip in and out of a French accent for the sake of heightening his obnoxiousness. The effect is similar to that of the Euro-jerk character in the last seasons of the TV show Cheers who kept saying to Woody, "I'm going to steal your girlfriend, Woody!"
Cassel's character, Laroche, is actually the driving force in Derailed, even though the main character is Charles, played by Clive Owen. How we react to the French villain along the way is much the same as how we'll react to the movie. At first, Cassell is very effective as a force of pure repulsion, and the movie is at its dirty best in the early, exploitative scenes of his intrusion upon a tryst being held by Charles and a woman named Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston). And as he first keeps coming back, we are further repulsed and perhaps even frightened. But then his appearances turn into something of a joke, and before long we've figured out what's really going on and we're not scared anymore.
By the end, Laroche feels like the inane plot device that he is, and Derailed ends up resting squarely in the territory of the contrived. The predictability of the movie becomes its biggest problem -- it opens the windows and lets all the tension out of the room. Novice movie watchers might not see anything coming and be able to enjoy Derailed as the cheap revenge flick that it is, but for those who have seen their fair share of films, this stuff is old hat.
It's a bit of a pity, since Owen works well in his role as a fairly weak man in a movie that seemingly begins as an exploration of the weaknesses of men -- their vulnerability to the fairer sex and their inability to come to terms with any self-perception of impotence, unable, in certain circumstances, to play the role as a protector or provider. Aniston isn't quite as convincing as the other half of this equation, but, to be fair, she does merely play the object. Cassel, meanwhile, as the antagonist, brings ferocity and then smarminess to his role, giving it the perfect effect of a character you both fear and hate. As a force, he's more like the faceless obstacle of the weak man, one that he may never be able to overcome.
But that's as far as it gets before the film heads into very silly territory. After you've figured it all out about a third of the way in, you'll notice that the last acts of the movie don't really make any sense (you may ask yourself, for instance, why didn't the bad guy get the heck out of town?). Then the story starts playing up to the audience's lust for vengeance, and before you know it you have something that feels like a glossy version of a B-movie thriller, one that Adrian Lyne probably would've felt right at home with, complete with slimy, ready-to-be-reviled French guy. Frankly, the story ought to be ashamed of using Francophobia to manipulate American audiences; it's just too easy isn't it? Yeah, Derailed might get you to root for the protagonist, but you're going to feel like you were suckered into it afterwards
©Jeffrey Chen, Nov. 7, 2005