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Originally published Friday, November 11, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

Action speaks louder than emotion in "Derailed"

As long as Clive Owen is on his own, solving problems and planning revenge, "Derailed" is a reasonably gripping thriller. When the movie...

Special to The Seattle Times

As long as Clive Owen is on his own, solving problems and planning revenge, "Derailed" is a reasonably gripping thriller. When the movie insists on suggesting he's a frustrated family man or a tentative adulterer, however, it lacks conviction.

This may have something to do with Owen's smoothly chilly screen persona, which was used to particularly splendid effect in "Gosford Park" and earned him an Oscar nomination when he played a verbal sadist in "Closer." But the script itself has trouble establishing nongeneric female characters who might have given him a chance to generate sparks.

The original screenplay by Stuart Beattie, who wrote last year's Tom Cruise hit "Collateral," quickly establishes Owen's character, a Chicago advertising director named Charles Schine, as a husband and father on the brink of a midlife crisis. He's just lost a major account at work, he no longer kisses his wife, Deanna (Melissa George), goodbye in the morning, and he's vulnerable when a fellow commuter-train passenger, Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston), starts flirting with him.

Movie review 2.5 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Derailed," with Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston. Directed by Mikael Håfström, from a screenplay by Stuart Beattie. 100 minutes. Rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality. Several theaters.

What appears to be a standard tale of destructive adultery takes a nastier turn when a brutal blackmailer (Vincent Cassel) turns up, threatening Lucinda, Charles and his family, which includes a diabetic child who can survive only if Charles does not deplete his bank account. After a disastrous attempt to recruit help, Charles decides to make his own justice.

Swedish director Mikael Håfström, whose 2003 film "Evil" earned an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film, does an efficient job of setting all this up, but the movie refuses to take off until Charles makes his decision. Unpleasant rather than suspenseful, the early scenes are mostly a wash.

The final half-hour, however, showcases Owen at his best, playing the ruthless loner as very few other stars can. No wonder he was seriously considered as the next James Bond.

John Hartl:

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