Saturday, April 18, 2020

Movie Reviews: Derailed

directed by Mikael Hafstrom
This older movie had a top shelf cast but a somewhat ridiculous story. 

But because of the cast and the fact that the plot moves quickly, it is something that can be fun to watch if you don't want to engage your deeper cognitive abilities all that much. It was stylish.

The story twists were somewhat obvious to my mind, at least after the first third of the film. The film employs a common and quietly racist trope. When the main character gets into trouble he turns to a Black friend who is WAY down the corporate ladder for advice on how to successfully break the law and deal with violent criminals. 

After all everyone knows when you need advice on scaring off thugs, it's best to talk to a Black man, who has probably been to prison and has experience with violence. This isn't a satire. So that left a bad taste in my mouth. 

Imagine that I went to an Italian-American co-worker and demanded she put me in touch with the local Mafia Family or approached an Arab-American neighbor for instruction on how to build effective package bombs. Problems would ensue. 

This film is set in Chicago. Charles Schine (Clive Owen) is a put upon advertising executive married to a harried school teacher, Deanna (Melissa George). The couple, although not old, doesn't have a lot of time for or interest in making whoopie any more. This is because their daughter has Type One diabetes and has already had two kidney transplants fail. 

Charles and Deanna must constantly monitor their daughter's glucose levels. They need to be ready at any time to provide life saving medication or take their daughter to the hospital. So Eros is not a regular visitor to the marital boudoir these days. 

Charles hasn't told his wife that he just lost a big ad account, something that is likely a precursor to losing his job. Although Charles' position pays well, ultimately he's a working stiff.

Charles and Deanna have used much of their savings and retirement for their daughter's care. Charles and Deanna live paycheck to paycheck. Every dollar counts. One morning Deanna takes some money from Charles' wallet but doesn't leave him enough to pay the train fare. Charles will be kicked off at the next stop and/or ticketed or arrested. 

Fortunately a fellow passenger, an attractive leggy woman named Lucinda (Jennifer Anniston), hears the commotion and decides to pay Charles' fare. 

Charles arranges his schedule so that he's always on Lucinda's train. Lucinda is a financial advisor, who like Charles, is also unhappily married. 

Charles is thirsty for some female attention that is, unlike his wife's, not centered around bills, struggle, and nagging.

Soon Charles and Lucinda are complimenting each other, sharing workplace war stories, meeting for lunch or dinner, complaining about their spouses and well you know the drill. After lying to spouses about emergency assignments, Charles and Lucinda search for a hotel. They find a place in a seedier part of town.

The duo get a room and prepare to get down to business. But before old Chuck can give Lucinda the best 30 seconds of her life, he suddenly realizes that he hasn't locked the room door.
Charles comes to this conclusion because an armed thug named Phillipe LaRoche (Vincent Cassel) breaks into the room, pistol whips and beats Charles into semi-consciousness/unconsciousness before assaulting Lucinda. The sneering and supremely self-satisfied Phillipe steals Charles' cash, id and credit cards.

Afterwards, Lucinda is too ashamed to file a police report. Lucinda doesn't want to explain her presence at the no-tell hotel to her husband. Charles is heartbroken that he couldn't protect Lucinda. Lucinda doesn't want to see him anymore.

But Phillipe wants to see Charles again. Phillipe blackmails Charles. Desperate, Charles turns for advice to his only work friend, Winston Boyko (RZA), a nerdy mail room clerk with a prison record and an interest in sports trivia.

Owen portrays Charles as a sad man with a lack of spine and good sense. You may or may not be sympathetic to his character. This could have been a really good modern film noir. Cassel was evidently having a good time in his over the top acting.

The reason it wasn't a good modern film noir is that the film tried too hard to make Charlie into a likable, if not heroic character. Anniston didn't have enough to do, but her role wasn't anything light hearted or comedic. She was very believable in her role. Giancarlo Esposito and David Oyelowo have small roles.
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