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Derailed (2005) desperately wants to posit the mother of all moral quandaries. Here's the setup: Charles (Clive Owen) is an ad executive who's bored with his job, his marriage, and the constant care and feeding of his diabetes-afflicted daughter. He meets a sexy, married banker named Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston) on a train. She says, "I cheat clients." He says, "I con housewives." They decide to check into a flea-bag hotel for some cheap, adulterous thrills. But then a thug (Vincent Cassel) breaks into their room, steals Charles' wallet, and rapes Lucinda for what seems like hours. Afterward, Lucinda says she doesn't want to call the police and destroy their marriages. But pretty soon the thug starts calling Charles at home — threatening to reveal the affair unless he forks over six figures' worth of money earmarked for the miracle drug that will cure Charles' daughter. So what does Charles do? Destroy two marriages and name a rape victim, or save a little girl's life? In our book, a little girl's life kind of trumps everything, but what do we know? Director Mikael Håfström's adaptation of James Siegel's novel shoots for that depraved-but-titillating, Adrian Lyne/Fatal Attraction moral-quandary vibe. But Derailed — while fast-paced and blessed with Cassel's charismatic performance — suffers from too many crucial shortcomings. For starters, everything's grimy and humorless in a way that infects even the normally ebullient Aniston. There's very little sexual heat between her and Owen — and that heat is unfortunately crucial to selling the story that follows their disastrous tryst. Even worse, Owen's character is too unpleasant to root for: He puts secrecy before his daughter, shelters a thief (RZA) at work, and covers up several acts of bloody mayhem that get semi-innocent people… well, that would be telling. And while the premise seems morally fraught, Håfström and scenarist Stuart Beattie keep pulling their punches at the last minute, in too-tidy ways that shouldn't be discussed. Actually, here's one example: Cassel breaks in on Charles and Lucinda before they can even consummate their surprisingly un-steamy affair. That's right: All this angst and blackmail, and they never even had sex. The whole movie's like that. It works overtime to keep Charles in peril — but it never really puts him in the sort of deeper, hands-dirtying moral bind that would make the drama truly compelling. The Weinstein Company's DVD release of Derailed features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include three deleted scenes with a "play all" option, the featurette "The Making of Derailed" (8 min.), and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
Mike Russell

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