As Friends’ permanently lovelorn Rachel, Jennifer Aniston was the girl every woman wanted to be and every guy wanted to have. Even her most ardent admirer, though, would think $120,000 a high price to pay for one night in the sack with the former Mrs Pitt. And the fact that Clive Owen hands over that sum so readily to the swarthy French blackmailer who threatens to tell all to his wife – a nagging shrew who doesn’t even seem to like him very much anymore – casts a fatal fug of implausibility over this Hitchcock-flavoured thriller from Swedish director Mikael Håfström.
A similar problem bedevilled Collateral, writer Stuart Beattie’s last genre effort, though on that occasion Michael Mann’s sleek direction and the interplay between Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx meant we were far too engrossed to care. Alas, there’s no such chemistry between Owen and Aniston, whose simmering affair never comes to the boil and who don’t even make it between the sheets before Cassel’s gun-toting hood arrives to break the mood. Håfström, meanwhile, seems uncertain how to handle such generic material, continually trying to glean resonance and pathos from a formulaic story that really required no more than some Hollywood hack-for-hire.
Played superficially with a bit of noir nostalgia, á la Body Heat or House Of Games, this could’ve been a gas – especially with Cassel supplying such a gleefully extravagant turn as the film’s sneering Euro-villain. Beattie, however, is too attached to his yarn to invest it with the kind of sly levity Hitch would have, playing it dead straight even as his preposterous plot twists invite ridicule. (Where, exactly, did suburban milquetoast Owen learn to shoot a gun? And why oh why doesn’t he just go to the cops?)
With such a credibility-stretching narrative at its core, it’s hardly surprising when attention drifts to the fringes. Indeed, if Derailed has anything to recommend it beyond Cassel, it’s the feisty, eye-catching support performances provided from rappers-turned-actors RZA and Xzibit.
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Miscast leads, unlikely twists and a lack of tension leave this potboiler stuck on the branch line, despite some lively supporting turns.