Movies like Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “Derailed” really makes me rethink this whole movie review thing. Also, filmmakers like director Bob Misiorowski and screenwriters Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch (and I use the term “filmmakers” loosely when describing these guys) really makes me question the validity of filmmaking as a viable art form. Fortunately there are movies like Steven Soderbergh’s “Solaris” and Peter Jackson’s “The Two Towers” to remind me that Yes, filmmaking is an art form, and for every cream that rises to the top, there are bottom feeders like Misiorowski and company scraping for leftover bits.
“Derailed” is the second direct-to-video movie that I have seen this week to star an aging action star, with the other being “The Foreigner” with Steven Seagal. Again Seagal, despite his numerous faults, still manages to do one better than the Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme (who I will now call JCVD from this moment on, simply because I’m sick and tired of writing his long name). Obviously saying that Seagal’s DTV film is better than JCVD’s is being relative. Like Seagal, JCVD has managed to resurrect what little stardom he still has left by shooting his movies overseas and almost exclusively for overseas markets. I guess the international action audience still hasn’t figured out yet that Seagal and JCVD are not worth the price of admission, much less a rental. (That honor belongs to sadomasochists such as myself, who are required to watch these things.)
In the low-budget action movie “Derailed”, JCVD plays Jacques, a sort of freelance bodyguard who hires out to members of NATO (I think). Jacques is hired to escort the lovely but unpredictable Galina (Laura Elena Harring) from point A to point B, and the only way out of A is by train. It turns out Mason Cole (Tomas Arana), an international criminal, knows this too, and has set up a highjacking of the train. To make matters worst, Jacques’ spunky doctor wife Madeline (Susan Gibney) has decided it would be great fun to bring the kids and a box of cake to surprise hubby while he’s working. Yeah, this is a believable plot twist Not.
The next thing you know, a vial full of a mutated strain of smallpox is unleashed on the train, although this doesn’t exactly explain how the smallpox, which seems to be viral and infects via the air, doesn’t leave the speeding train and infect those outside the train as well. Also, if these vials are so bloody lethal and easy to break (as seems to be the case), why is Galina carrying them around in what looks like a cigar box? Then again, asking questions like these are liable to lead to this nagging question, “My God, why am I watching this in the first place?”
The only real reason to watch “Derail” is to see Laura Harring, fresh off successful prime gigs in “Mulholland Drive” and “John Q.”, try to make believe that she’s not plotting how to kill her agent for getting her into this mess of a movie. The lovely Ms. Harring offers the film’s only bright spot, as her high-tech thief/circus performer/tramp/seductress provides us the only source of entertainment in this whole sorry affair. It also happens that Cole is in love with Harring’s Galina, and really, who could blame the guy? Even international criminal masterminds need a little lovin’ every now and then. The only sore spot is that Harring doesn’t do the decent thing and provide a little T&A. What a tease.
The film, like JCVD’s last offering “The Order”, is really one big chase movie. Only this time JCVD is chased by Cole’s army of faceless and dumb gunmen through the train, around the train, on top of the train, and then finally underneath the train for good measure. Misiorowski and his editors try to turn us deaf with loud special effects foley, as if convinced that it they make the “pow” and “bam” and “thud” loud enough, we’ll somehow start believing that the action is close to credible. They aren’t. The lousy background projection work doesn’t help either.
And here’s a question for screenwriters Anderson and Gierasch (who besides this gem were responsible for the masterpieces “Spiders”, “Crocodile”, and the must-have sequel, “Crocodile 2: Death Swamp”): If the smallpox virus has been unleashed on the train, why is it only certain people on the train are developing symptoms (such as unsightly sores) and others don’t? For that matter, what the hell were JCVD’s wife and two children doing on the train in the first place? Or, how about this, geniuses: Have you ever been to Texas? Because nothing — and I do mean nothing — can explain, and justify, the presence of probably the fakest “Texan” character known to modern cinema.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that “Derailed” is a new low for JCVD, because, let’s face it, JCVD has done a lot of bad movies, the size of the budget notwithstanding. Speaking of budgets, they probably spent about half of it on a wholly unnecessary car chase through the streets of some former Eastern Bloc country. The filmmakers blew up a gas station and about a half dozen cars, all for that “bang” factor that film producers — going by the assumption that international audiences don’t know much, but they do know they want their explosions — demand.
Bang! Boom! Thud!
Bob Misiorowski (director) / Jace Anderson, Adam Gierasch (screenplay)
CAST: Jean-Claude Van Damme …. Jacques Kristoff
Tomas Arana …. Mason Cole
Laura Elena Harring …. Galina Konstantin
Susan Gibney …. Madeline Kristoff