A cautionary tale for men who can’t keep it in their pants, Derailed feels like yesterday’s news. Despite strong performances and a current of urgency, this contemporary thriller derails even before it leaves the station. Anyone who sat through Unfaithful Attraction or a decade worth of Law and Order will beat the plot to the punch.

Clive Owen paints a portrait of perfection as Charles Schine, devoted father who begrudgingly works in advertising to pay for daughter Amy’s (Addison Timlin) crippling diabetes. Charles isn’t nearly as devoted to wife Deanna (Melissa George), both going through the motions for Amy. Charles is instantly smitten with Lucinda Harris (Jennifer Aniston), a stranger who offers to pay for his train ticket after Deanna swipes all of his cash.

One causal meeting turns into another, then lunch, drinks, eventually followed by an opportunity for hot sex in a hotel room. Now anyone who has ever had their bunny boiled would know better, but not Charles, who sees sex with Lucinda as a chance to prove he’s still a man. All Charles has to do is stand naked in front of a mirror: Adam’s apple, check. Hair on chest, check. Wild python of love danging between legs. Check. Maybe Charles wanted to make sure all of the parts still worked.

Just as clothes are about to fly, a stranger named La Roche (Vincent Cassel) breaks into the room, pistol whips Charles, rapes Lucinda, and steals their money and ID. I feel lucky when I can get an extra towel from room service. Bloodied and bruised, and not in a good way, Charles wants to call the police, but is stopped by Lucinda, who fears her abusive husband and losing her daughter.

When La Roche blackmails Charles and Lucinda, writer Stuart Beattie (based on the novel by James Siegel) approaches every turn of events with expected results. Director Mikael Hafstrom fails to draw us into the harrowing plight of the characters, asking us to become casual observers. Big mistake. Derailed isn’t designed as a spectator sport. It’s a morality tale which should engage us at every turn. The filmmakers sleight of hand isn’t sufficient to distract us from the fact that this story has been told many times before.

Owen nails the desperate husband trapped in a loveless marriage, while Aniston’s attempt to get down and dirty feels calculated but admirable. Cassel is appropriately dark. Once Derailed lays all of its cards on the table, you’ll feel like you’re playing Old Maid rather than high stakes poker.

Romance Jumps The Tracks


Jennifer Aniston, Clive Owen, Melissa George, Vincent Cassel, RZA, Xzibit, Giancarlo Esposito. Directed by Mikael Hafstrom. Rated R. 110 Minutes.

Larsen Rating: $5.00

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