More than likely, Derailed is a film about masculinity in crisistm.
All the telltale signs are there: An impotent husband and father who only becomes active when he’s able to exact revenge, a family that renders the man of the household invisible, anxieties over the nature of a 9 to 5 job. Six-foot-two Clive Owen even slouches toward beating after beating until he’s able to reclaim his inner warrior and becomes a spirit of wrath and vengeance tm.
But those expecting Owen to retrieve some of the force of his role in Closer or Jennifer Anniston to revive her performance in Good Girl are in for a shock: Derailed is inconsequential, mediocre and predictable. It probably would be better if you didn’t expect more, but it is far less than it should be.
Charles (Owen) is a successful advertising executive living in the suburbs of Chicago. A former English teacher, he’s now a perpetual commuter trapped on the edges of the American Dream. His house is as busy as a subway station, he and his wife Deanna barely communicate as they rush to get out the door and only seem connected through their diabetic daughter who requires constant monitoring and medications. Like Charles’ and Deanna’s marriage, the daughter is mostly dead.
One morning Charles meets Lucinda (Anniston) on the train on his way into the office. She is an investment banker with reptilian charms; he’s a beaten-down loser, and they begin to flirt with one another. Charles and Lucinda are sharks in heat, circling one another in the tight tank of the commuter train, and it’s difficult to muster anything but contempt for these white-collar creeps.
After several meetings they decide to bring their relationship to the next step: Seedy sex. The pair lurches toward a run-down motel, but the filmmakers gratefully spare us that particular horror. Before Charles and Lucinda can fulfill their cycle to disappointment, remorse and regret they’re assaulted mid-tryst. The thug is an unlikely French man, short and more frail looking than Owen, who beats Charles senseless then appears to rape Lucinda.
Afterwards the Frenchman – played by Vincent Cassel – blackmails Charles, and the sap pays, riddled with feelings of guilt and shame. The first extortion is only a rehearsal for later ones, however, and Charles dips into the family savings for his daughter’s next liver transplant to pay off the thug. When he balks after talking to Lucinda she tells him that she has gotten an abortion following the rape, heightening his feelings of guilt. 
Anyone familiar with the fine made-for-TV films on the Lifetime Television Network will be able to work out the plot twists, which is only one of the film’s shortcomings. Derailed’s dialog is too sharp, too rehearsed; language seduced by its own cleverness; and Owen and Anniston give lackluster performances.
Nothing flickers or shines in Derailed. The actors seem disengaged, almost bored, by the trite storyline. For a film about a sexy tryst, Derailed is conspicuously sterile and dull, drained of anything remotely thrilling. It is destitute, cheerless, and full of self-loathing and contempt, and the inevitable revenge motif feels forced.
Masculinity might be under attack, and like a Greek tragedy blood may be the only thing capable of redeeming it. But blood without passion is like flirting with a Polaroid picture.


A History of Violence

America is a geographical history of violence – a land of brutality, sadism and murder.
David Cronenberg's A History of Violence dissects our basic desire for mayhem with the careful ease of a torturer peeling back a scar. Cronenberg is best known for directing creepy science fictions like Videodrome, Naked Lunch and Crash, but in History he does something unexpected: He opens a wound in small town America to show the things squirming below.
Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is an easygoing family man living in America’s heartland with his wife and two children. He owns a small diner, slouches around wiping up spills and discussing the weather. His wife Edie (Maria Bello) is an attorney, their son Jack (Ashton Holmes) is an ordinary teenager waiting out his time in one of those small towns that seem to disappear when you leave, and Tom and Edie’s toddler daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes) is still too young to know she’s living in nowhere USA.
Tom’s peaceful world is shattered when two psychopaths decide to rob the diner. Blazing a path of bodies across the country and into Tom’s little diner, the two outlaws are exhausted by the carnage they create around them. Violence is a slow and tedious process sometimes and Cronenberg has a good eye for details, showing criminal brutality as a tiring ritual with all the charm of a small boy torturing an insect to death. 
The killers represent a frightening sort of violence; cheerless, chaotic sadism conjured up from the road itself. Millbrook, the small town where the Stalls live, has domesticated this sort of energy out of its men, rendered them as model citizens and good neighbors, and the killers approach the town as born predators.
Wolves among sheep, they immediately cow the customers at Tom’s dinner, who are terrified by their show of force. But Tom cuts their casual crime spree short by shooting them dead and the town celebrates him as a hero. Tom’s violence reminds them of their own capacity for bloodlust, their own cowboy impulses to punish the wicked.
When Tom becomes a media spectacle, however, gangsters come to Millbrook, thinking that he’s the long-lost brother of a mafia gang leader. Eddie Cusack was a cold-blooded murderer, and Philadelphia mobster Carl Fogaty (Ed Harris) is certain that Tom is actually Eddie on the lam. Eddie blinded Fogaty with a wad of barbed wire and the dead eye can now see through the Tom’s impersonation into the killer within.     
There is a disturbing drumming beneath the beat of ordinary life in Millbrook, even before Tom shoots the killers and the Stalls meet Fogaty. Edie and Tom play weird sexual games that smack of sadomasochism and Jack is bullied in school (a wolf in lamb’s clothes), and the small town’s inclination to protect its own resonates oddly when your own might be a murderer. When violence is released in the Stall family it burns out of control.
Tom is a member of the community and a father to a young family, whether or not he’s actually Eddie. The violence Tom unleashes defending his town against the killers is first accepted with pride, then as a necessary part of life as it radiates outward. Our families and towns protect what’s ours, even if it’s diseased, even if it will devour us from the inside out. The killer is a hero, a man who sits at the head of the table, a problem we can handle ourselves in our small towns, in our isolated little families.
America was created by outlaws and religious zealots who wanted to start a new life in a new country. Like Tom, they wanted nothing more than a chance to start over, an opportunity to leave everything behind, and like Tom they brought their violent tendencies with them. It runs deep inside us, passes through our genes, is recounted in stories and legend, dragged out when we need to be reminded of our strength and brutality. 
We think we’ve left all that behind in our move to the West and back again, but Cronenberg reminds us there’s still a little wildness in our lives, a little cannibalistic pride buried under Main Street.

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