The Red Right Hand

They Never Saw It Coming

Mikael Hafstrom
Clive Owen
Jennifer Aniston
Vincent Cassel

“Le temps détruit tout - Time destroys everything” This was the tagline of a film that was released in 2002 called Irréversible. It was fantastic and yet one of the most deplorably horrifying and harrowing films I have ever been made to watch. Essentially the plot unfolds in reverse as we see the story of Alex getting raped and beaten by a stranger, then how her current boyfriend and ex-lover hire two criminals to find this man in order to seek and exact vengeance upon him. As I said, it is a disturbing film and I recommend it with utmost caution but it had to be mentioned because it worked so much better, both in principal and practice, than Derailed.

Charles Schine [Owen] is a married business executive, with one diabetes-stricken daughter. On the way to work one day he happens to miss his train and in his haste forgets to buy a ticket for the next one. A young lady, Lucinda Harris [Aniston] offers to pay for his ticket and they start talking. On his arrival to work, Charles decides to seek his newly found friend’s phone number; with so much on his mind –spiralling debts, bored with his marriage, pressures at work- he urges himself to press this new relationship. After meeting a couple of times, the two executives end up at a bar. Alcohol has its usual effect and friendly conversations become blatant flirting, soon they are kissing in an alleyway. By this point you’re somewhat bored of the plot and the casting of Aniston implies that it’s simply a romantic thriller – first impressions can be deceiving, as Charles is about to discover.

Pulling up outside a hotel, Schine and Harris book a room and make their way to the top floor. Nervously and reluctantly they begin to kiss; things start to heighten and the music becomes fast-paced (as is common for most love scenes, lets face it). All of a sudden Schine looks up to see a man holding a gun to Harris’ head. Panicking, he hands over his wallet. The French-accented man, LaRoche [Cassel – also starred in Irréversible] begins to taunt and tease the couple, goading them about their seedy fling. His attentions turn to Harris and he makes it very apparent that he intends to rape her. Schine tries to save her by rushing the Frenchman and (realistically) gets thrown to the floor, a broken nose and a concussion. The rape scene itself is filmed from Schine’s discombobulated state and is exceptionally well done – a true credit to the director. They both part ways and no more is said of it. Schine explains to his boss and wife that he was mugged. Later that day he receives a phone call from LaRoche, demanding $20,000. Suffice to say this is a blackmail film and if I go on anymore I will ruin the film for you, should you choose to watch it.

Based on the critically acclaimed novel by James Siegel, Derailed is a very interesting tale with a few fairly gripping twists. I feel it will do rather well and sets Jennifer Aniston up as a true actress (by that I simply mean she’s stepped up from her typecasting as Rachael from Friends). Although Owen acted well I felt this change for him (following tough, larger-than-life characters in both Sin City, King Arthur and Closer) was desperately needed, it shows that he can play someone who’s being exploited and can be vulnerable. Unfortunately the characters themselves are far too unbelievable for me to simply accept all that’s happening. The greater the demands made by LaRoche, the more ridiculous Schine’s agreement with Harris about not going to the police to save face with her family. I can accept that he’s meant to be a nice caring gentleman but I cannot honestly believe that he confesses everything to his wife and she simply understands it all. Other problems begin to creep in as the film continues; believability, practicality (Schine’s refusal to simply go to the police and have them deal with it, the true notion of vengeance: he hurt me so now I must hurt him back, it’s an affliction of a childish nature that most men suffer from), character interactions and just the overall feeling that a.) you get what you deserve and b.) the only way to solve a problem is to flush it away, first with cash, then death.

Another problem is the plot. It’s clearly stolen so much from Strangers On A Train, Double Indemnity and of course Fatal Attraction. Anyone that’s seen a 40’s noir film is going to see it coming from a mile away. It slowly starts to degenerate from a thriller, to a push-and-shove match between LaRoche and Schine, to a bloodbath of revenge and anger. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Sin City fan so I’m all for bloodbaths fuelled by anger and vengeance -those are the best kind- I’m just trying to point out that it should have been outlined from the start and not sidetracked so much so that the audience has no real idea what kind of film they’ve found themselves watching. Not even the excellent supporting cast, (RZA, Xzibit, Giancarlo Esposito & Tom Conti) could save this one as the camera focuses on Schine’s perspectives and point of view, which is a shame because this could have been so much more.

Release Date:
3rd February 2005

The Scene To Look Out For:
Unfortunately it's the rape scene. With it's unique film styling, wonderful acting from (surprisingly) Cassel and Aniston - really allowing the audience to despise LaRoche but then on second viewing you may have a different viewpoint of it all. A true credit to the Swedish director.

Notable Characters:
RZA plays Winston Boyko brilliantly well. Typically whenever some white guy needs to know about the criminal underworld he can always rely on some ethnic minority in the office post room - I don't agree with this, simply because there aren't any in my work's post room. Played well to the end.

Highlighted Quote:
"I'm an advertising executive, I con housewives"

In A Few Words:
Nothing too original and a lot of thriller fans will pull it to shreds on accounts of realism; it could have been so much more.

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon