After the shared experience of two very public splits (sadly, only one of them involving a salacious hook-up with Angelina Jolie), the Weinsteins and Jennifer Aniston have chosen to unite in the interest of career validation in the clumsy thriller “Derailed.” Appropriately enough, the film is heavy on relationship babble and severed ties. But, like the spasm of goodwill Aniston garnered following her busted marriage to Brad Pitt, any effect this messy spectacle produces is both insubstantial and profoundly fleeting.

Film Reviews
“For $10,000, I can have Brad McBad taken care of.”
(Courtesy of The Weinstein Company)

The film opens in prison with a man narrating the story of Charles Schine (Clive Owen, “Closer”), who forgets his train ticket one day on his way to work. A beautiful stranger by the name of Lucinda Harris (Aniston, TV’s “Friends”) pays for his ride before striking up a flirtatious confrontation. When their romance takes an adulterous turn at a seedy hotel, a French thug (Vincent Cassel, “Ocean’s Twelve”) interrupts, attacking Charles and raping Lucinda. Soon after, the menacing criminal begins blackmailing Charles until his life spirals out of control.

The first major film for the newly formed Weinstein Company, as well as the first major dramatic vehicle for Aniston, “Derailed” is shockingly meek. One would expect a significant – or at least competent, film for this kind of launch – but “Derailed” is more about spinning wheels than reconstructing them. It doesn’t go anywhere you wouldn’t expect. Worse, when it finally reaches the obvious twist, it slams to a screeching halt and starts trying to explain itself.

Predictability might be expected in light of today’s movie-savvy audiences – they’ve seen every permutation of the same story at least twice in the theater and once on DVD. But director Mikael Hafstrom plods through the hackneyed script (really, one of the year’s worst) so dispassionately, so completely set against anything approaching originality, that the film can’t even make anything of its talented cast.

While Aniston gets the coverage in the marketing push, the film is centered around Owen’s well-meaning everyman. The British actor, executing a relatively spot-free American accent, adds another nuanced performance to his impressive resume, mingling arrogance and carelessness with real pathos. Aniston’s role is disappointing – more of a glorified cameo than a supporting performance – but she projects the mystery, radiance, and glowing presence of a newly minted movie star.

However, apart from the lead performances and a slyly creepy turn from perennial bad guy Cassel, there isn’t much to like about “Derailed.” Fair production values can’t compensate for a nonsensical story any more than all-American sweetheart Aniston can hide the fact that her role has been put to film a dozen other times in the past year.

In fact, the complete lack of innovation is what defines “Derailed.” Every scene feels pedestrian. The entire last quarter only serves as an awkward loose-end collector. Banality buries this film. It’s the only thing audiences will remember, and that’s the fundamental reason why the film is so completely forgettable.

FILM REVIEW: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

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