Derailed By Michael Rechtshaffen for The Hollywood Reporter
The Rachel-do has seen better hair days...as has Clive Owen.
The ads for "Derailed", starring Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston as a pair of doomed, illicit lovers, are accompanied by the tagline, "They Never Saw It Coming."
That would have to make them about the only ones.
Aiming for "Strangers on a Train" or "The Postman Always Rings Twice" but ending up looking a lot more like the lesser elements of "Unfaithful," this flaccid psychological thriller keeps spoiling its own surprise by constantly signaling the big plot twist.
And because that means they won't have to keep on guessing, audiences will have a lot of time on their hands noticing how Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom's first English-language feature never really ratchets up the suspense or how the casting of Aniston and Owen fails to generate those crucial sparks.
As a result, this debut release under the Weinstein Co. banner likely won't make the kind of splash it's looking for, though it could still conduct some moderate business with female-skewing thrill-seekers.
Adapted by Stuart Beattie ("Collateral") from a novel by James Siegel, the story centers on Charles Schine (Owen), a Chicago advertising man who finds himself on the commuter train to work one day without cash to pay for his ticket.
Springing for the nine bucks is alluring fellow passenger Lucinda Harris (Aniston), who, it turns out, works in the financial industry and, like Schine, is married with a child.
But that doesn't prevent them from taking more than a shine to each other, meeting for lunches and early evening cocktails, leading to a would-be tryst in a seedy hotel room that is rudely and fatefully interrupted by the intrusion of a brutal trespasser (Vincent Cassel) who holds them up at gunpoint, beats up Schine and sexually assaults Aniston.
A nasty game of blackmail escalates, leading to the intended big reveal, but truth be told, the plot jumped the tracks long before the train pulled into the station.
In the hands of director Hafstrom, whose previous film, "Evil" was a foreign-language Oscar nominee, "Derailed" telegraphs its every turn while never making a credible case for the characters' unfaithful behavior.
Part of the problem is in the casting of its two dependable leads who both bring very specific qualities to the table -- a fundamental decency with Aniston and a soulful melancholy with Owen -- and those attributes simply don't serve this type of story effectively. Their relationship never achieves that pulpy, darkly driven passionate intensity required to command an equally pounding punishment.
Also lacking is a distinct visual style, an attribute that the otherwise soapy "Unfaithful" had in spades (not to mention that terrific Diane Lane performance), leaving "Derailed," which happens to have been shot by "Unfaithful" cinematographer Peter Biziou, to chug along drearily to a long-awaited destination.