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Derailed

Year: 2006
Production Co: Di Bonaventura Productions
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Writer: Stuart Beattie
Cast: Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassell, Melissa George, RZA, Tom Conti, Xzibit
I knew it, I knew it. As soon as Charles (Owen) was saying what he thought were his goodbyes to Lucinda (Aniston), she hesitates for a split second, her eyes flicker, and suddenly I knew it was coming - the big twist, the big payoff.

At that instant, I got a lot more interested. What was a pretty good thriller suddenly became a thrill. I broke into a huge grin and couldn't wait to see what the hero discovered and how he exacted whatever revenge would be necessary.

I can't help it, I'm a sucker for a good twist ending, that instant where you know everything you've been told is a lie and there's a whole lot more to find out. The only flaw with Derailed was that the twist wasn't the ending. The storytellers (writer and director) were too proud of their twist and wanted to show it off for too long. By that time all that was left to do was for the hero to triumph, and the surprise is gone.

The entire prison sequence at the end could have been dropped without detracting from the story, it was just our (and the director's) desire to see the hero exact gloriously bloody revenge on the villain, to look him in the eye as he died knowing he'd been bettered.

Still, it's a great idea and was done well. For the first three quarters, you're watching a guy who meets a woman by chance. Embarking on an affair he takes her to a seedy hotel where they're promptly held up by a thug (Cassell) who takes their money and wallets, raping Lucinda and beating Charles senseless.

When it's over, the thug Phillipe starts to extort money out of Charles, showing up at his house, making him deliver suitcases of cash in the middle of the night, and while Charles wants to go to the police, Lucinda begs him not to - if they're found out, she'll lose her daughter.

Cassell makes a deliciously nasty villain and it's easy to hate and fear him. Director Hafstrom keeps the action moving along nicely thanks to subplots involving minor characters such as Winston (RZA), and it holds you pretty firmly until 'the moment'.

Owen is on the hammy side of his talents. The swearing everyman he played in Closer is much more effective than his steel-jawed King Arthur hero. Aniston looks uncomfortable not playing the lead in a fluffy romantic comedy, but aside from rough patches like that, it's a great 'story' movie.

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