Derailed (November 7/02)
It's a dangerous proposition, being a Jean-Claude Van Damme fan. He keeps churning out flicks, even though it's been a good long while since one of them managed to premiere in a movie theater rather than on home video. And, generally speaking, he's managed to offer up some decent movies made on increasingly low budgets (last year's Replicant, for example). But with Derailed, Van Damme comes perilously close to the bottom of the barrel (he's already been there, with Knock Off, and it's doubtful he'll ever do worse than that).
Derailed casts Van Damme as Jacques Kristoff, a commando of sorts who works on a freelance basis. Jacques' latest mission requires him to recover a stolen package containing a hefty dose of small pox, a deadly disease that's virtually been wiped out. After hooking up with Galina (Laura Elena Harring), a woman who knows the terrorists responsible for the robbery, Jacques locates the package aboard a train. What ensues should've been a fun Die Hard ripoff somewhere along the lines of Passenger 57, but instead winds up an overblown mess of clichés and bad direction.
I can't fault Van Damme, though. In Derailed, he gives virtually the exact same performance he always does - though Jacques is slightly happier than the majority of his past characters (Van Damme often plays bitter and depressed men who've lost something). The brunt of the blame instead falls to filmmaker Bob Misiorowski. It's clear that Misiorowski is a movie buff, because he throws in virtually every single visual trick ever committed to celluloid. Slow-motion, instant replays, grainy footage - it's all here, and completely distracting. Misiorowski, working with an incredibly low-budget (which Derailed clearly has - check out the ultra-fake train crash late in the picture that seems as though it'd be more at home in a Godzilla picture), just doesn't have the skill required to employ these various tricks (De Palma he's not). And his rampant overuse becomes far more distracting than anything else, turning Derailed into an overblown annoyance.
If it hadn't been for the disastrous direction, other subpar aspects of the film would have been easier to overlook. But as it is, the idiotic storyline, poor acting amongst everyone that isn't Van Damme, and stunts that are just ridiculous (Van Damme's motorcycle ride atop the rapidly-moving train has to be seen to be believed), derail Derailed almost as soon as it starts.