2005-11-25 / Columnists

MovieScope

By Robert Snyder


Moving far away from TV’s sit-com “Friends,” actress Jennifer Aniston has entered serious Hitchcock-“Fatal Attraction” territory with her new film, “Derailed.” And for the first hour, she pulls it off.

Helmed by Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom, “Derailed” follows a Stuart Beattie (“Collateral”) adaptation from the James Siegel novel. The story starts as harried television commercial writer Charles Schine (Clive Owen) finds himself without cash or a ticket on a commuter train to Chicago. Sexy fellow passenger Lucinda Harris (Aniston) produces nine dollars to cover the fare, thereby igniting the spark that will likely lead to adultery (both are married with child). Before long, Charles and Lucinda are rolling and tumbling on a hotel bed, when a nasty trespasser with an on-and-off French accent puts a gun to the entwined couple. Charles is pistol-whipped into semi-consciousness, while the bad guy, Phillippe Laroche (Vincent Cassel), rapes Lucinda.

But the nightmare has just begun.

Lucinda will not tolerate police involvement, leaving Charles to lie to wife Deanna (Melissa George), simply saying that he was mugged. It doesn’t take a psychic to predict that blackmail is forthcoming.

Philippe is soon phoning Charles, making demands that ultimately hit six figures. He is forced to deplete his savings of money set aside for expensive new medication for his diabetic daughter.

“Derailed” is thoroughly intriguing until the halfway point, when the plot becomes crazily convoluted, incorporating bits from “Fatal Attraction,” “Unfaithful” and “Cape Fear.” Aniston is fine as the sympathetic, sex-starved heroine. However, when she enters Barbara Stanwyck “Double Indemnity” land, she is over her head. Owen is a solid leading man, though more believable as victim than avenger. Cassel provides the appropriate smarminess. Still, the scene-stealer here is rapper RZA as mailroom guy Winston Boyko, to whom Charles turns in desperation for some needed street sense and solutions.

“Derailed” falls short of being a great Puritanical-guilt thriller. If only Aniston had Diane Lane’s “Unfaithful” complexity. As for evoking the psychosis of “Fatal Attraction’s” villain, Cassel isn’t Close.

Best to wait four months for the DVD, rather than spring for a movie ticket. If you must go now, don’t borrow nine bucks from a sexy stranger.

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