Derailed (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

There is nothing incompetent about Derailed, a Hollywood erotic thriller starring Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston. The direction, acting, and scripting are all adequate. Yet I can't give you a single good reason to watch the film unless you've never seen a femme fatale thriller before. If you have already seen a few, there is absolutely nothing new in this one.

  • The characters are the same old genre stereotypes: the nice guy tempted to stray from an excessively routine life, the femme fatale, the over-the-top psychotic villain, the tough cop with a sentimental streak.

  • The script is completely predictable. If we went into the film assuming that it was a straight drama, the central plot twist would catch us napping, but since it is a thriller, we automatically assume that there must be a hole card hidden from our view. In this case, we can identify the downturned card in the same way that a blackjack counter can identify the last card in the deck - there is only one remaining possibility. If everything is not as it appears, there can only be one other alternative.

  • The sex and nudity are passionless. Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston don't manage to ignite any sparks between them in a lovemaking scene. The subsequent rape scene is powerful and emotionally involving, but it is a rape after all, and therefore not a pleasant scene to watch. Moreover, Jennifer Aniston manages to stay fully dressed throughout the lovemaking with Clive Owen and even while she is being raped by Vincent Cassel.

  • After we assume the film to have concluded, there is a completely gratuitous and anti-climactic finale which destroys whatever remaining credibility the film may have had. The action was so implausible that many audiences were heckling the screen as the scene transpired.

Tuna noted that the filmmakers were caught in a quandary on the casting of Jennifer Aniston. They wanted the grosses which her "name recognition factor" would provide, but in order to get her they had to be willing to forego anything which might have made the film erotic. The film really called for a sexier female lead, one who could convincingly seduce a happily married man, and one willing to do at least the natural nudity required to make the sex scenes look genuine. (The fully-dressed sex scenes look ridiculous and artificial, like the old drive-in porno where the guys always kept their pants on.) I hate to say it because of the unhappy connection between the two women, but the perfect woman for the role would have been Angelina Jolie. As the film stands, it plays out like an expurgated network TV version of an R-rated movie.

As I add up the totals, my spreadsheet says that it all adds up to a PG-13 erotic thriller which fails to deliver on either thrills or eroticism. Despite that result, it would be dishonest for me to give it a very low score simply because the package is professionally assembled. If there could have been more than one solution to the puzzle, and/or if the sex and nudity had been as impressive as the action in Body Heat or Basic Instinct, Derailed would be a film to recommend. In its current condition, it is a barely watchable time-killer and easily solvable for genre fans.



  • "The Making of Derailed" featurette
  • Deleted scenes (discarded sub-plots)
  • 5 minutes of additional footage not seen in theaters


  • Jennifer Aniston shows nothing.

  • Melissa George shows the very top of her butt crack in a fleeting shower scene.

The comments above apply to the "unrated" DVD.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: exactly two. James Berardinelli 1.5/4, Roger Ebert 2.5/4

  • British consensus out of four stars: one and a half. Mail 4/10, Telegraph 6/10, Independent 4/10, Guardian 2/10, Times 4/10, Sun 5/10, Express 4/10, Mirror 6/10, FT 4/10, BBC 2/5.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at $22 million for production. It grossed $36 million in 2400 theaters, and another $18 million overseas.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C- by our standard of measurement.

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