released during the beginning of his direct-to-video era, derailed (2002) is sudden-death-on-a-train, or die-hard-on-a-train, or under-siege-on-a-train: dark territory. it’s a passable 80s movie that unfortunately came out in the 00’s.
jcvd plays jacques kristoff (jac-off if you’re nasty), who’s latest mission is to escort cat burglar/circus performer galina konstantin from slovakia to germany by train. galina is played by laura harring from mulholland dr., inland empire, tv’s gossip girl, and tv’s the shield. the macguffin she stole in the i.o.a.s. turns out to be vials of biological virus. bad guys get on the train a few stops later attempt to steal the virus. also late to the train is jacques’ wife and kids, who want to surprise jacques because it’s his birthday, but more likely to be taken hostages so it would seem like there’s more at stake. i mean, even though they never explicitly mentioned jacques’ position or who he works for (or maybe i forgot cause i wasn’t really paying total attention), it can’t be that great of an organization if his wife and kids can find out exactly which train he’s on.
the first tweny minutes or so, before they get on the train, is pretty interesting though. the i.o.a.s. refreshingly stars galina instead of jcvd as one would expect. it’s also somewhat promising that galina seems to be able to handle action on her own, so she’s not merely the love interest or the damsel in distress. i am not sure why they made her a circus performer who moonlights as a cat burglar for some kind of government agency but it does give the movie an opportunity to have a second i.o.a.s. involving cirqe du soleil type theatrics and light show instead of fight scenes. it almost make jcvd more of a sidekick than the action hero. i also get a good laugh that the red beret bad guys decided to go into the theatre to get her at the exact moment that jcvd shows up, even though her name is on a poster outside the theatre.
the last action sequence before they get on the train is a car chase sequence that is better than what one would expect from a dtv movie. the two carjack a taxi cab and has a chase through the city a la die hard with a vengeance. it ends with a crash at a gas station…well you know how these things turn out. what caught my eyes is that the cabs (supposedly slovakia but filmed in bulgaria) are either mercedes or audi. someone should do studies on why we only get ford or toyota as cabs.
and while they’re at it, maybe they can also find out why when motor vehicles explode in movies, they always break the vehicles in the exact half way point. it happened in the bus in meltdown aka high risk and it happens here. mythbusters, get on that.
things get more ordinary once they get on the train. galina put on a blonde wig as a disguise perhaps as a nod to hitchcock, probably a first in a jcvd movie. the hostages, of course, are culturally diverse, from the american cowboy to the british car lover to the european classical musician. so is the terrorist group which is composed of an african guy, a woman, a long hair guy, and a tech guy with glasses.
there are a few things that make the movie endearing. jcvd’s character is somewhat more realistic and less of an invincible fighting machine. this may disappoint old school fans especially of his punchfighting movies but i think it benefits the movie. he’s more of the leader of an ensemble than the star. maybe that’s why we don’t see him to a split half naked.
another thing i like is that there seems to be a half winking at the audience aspect in the screenplay. a couple characters ask why take the train. the lead villain (tomas arana from tombstone, gladiator, limitless) is named mason cole, whose namesake inspires various associations for action movie fans. it can’t be a coincident that the train conductor is named gruber. i always prefer filmmakers and screenwriters acknowledging their source material to pretending they are creating something original. we know and you know you are making a die hard-ish movie, there’s no need to hide it.
the film works within the confine of the train. unfortunately, they got ambitious and came up with a few sequence on top and outside the moving train. the cgi special effects here are not much better than your typical asylum movies (except derailed (2002) has an $18 million budget). one saving grace is a so-bad-it’s-good sequence involving jcvd on a motorcycle in a gunfight with one of the terrorists. mostly though, it makes you wonder why they bother with recreating under siege 2 (helicopter-ladder-tunnel) when they have one third of that movie’s budget.
most annoying of all is the early syndrome of post-action a.d.d. effect that will plague dtv movies for the decade to come. it’s not as bad as some of the recent ones but it’s clear where we were heading. there are split screen, still frames, and the c.s.i. effects. granted, some of these cuts may have been attempts to hide special effects shortcomings but there’s no reason why a character can’t walk down a corridor without cuts.
i’m not much of a jcvd or punchfighting fan but i can see why people are disappointed with the movie. it’s a bit hyperbolic to call this as one of his worst though. i would take this over his ultra-serious mega-depressing theatrical movies. it’s easier for me to sit through than say universal soldier, double impact, hard target, or maximum risk. the die hard forumla is such a strong premise that like the mission impossible theme, even limp bizkit can wrung out a decent product. derailed (2002) lands just a tad below the proper die hard-ish sudden death and the insanely entertaining knock off.
p.s. there is a rap song during the end credits that kind of sums up the whole movie. like the movie itself, it’s not as well done as the closing credits song from knock off (seen below). i went through the end credits three times and still couldn’t find the artist responsible for the derailed song. the one from knock off is by the band sparks, who wrote a song called tsui hark, the director of knock off, a few years before knock off: the movie.
the pitch: die hard/under siege/sudden death on a train
bruno, the mcclane surrogate: jacques kristoff played by jcvd, who’s more human here than most of his characters
the gruber factor: mason cole played by tomas arana
the hans objective: vials containing small pox
wrong place at the wrong time: jacques was going after his wife, who thinks he’s having an affair with galina (laura harring) when the villains were taking over the train
the help: harring at first seems to be set up as the help but it’s more of a misdirection. there’s a train conductor named gruber who tells jacques how to control the train
the family element: jacques’ wife and kids are on the train, infected with the macguffin virus
bonfire of the weaponry: van dammage, fist, guns, motorcycle, handcuff
last man standing: SPOILER: the lead villain is actually killed off before the end, the climax has more to do with saving the people on the train
unbearables: jcvd previously starred in the die hard-ish sudden death. the die-hard-on-a-train was done in under siege 2 seven years earlier. the train conductor is named gruber. mason cole, the lead villain played by tomas arana is shown as sophisticated and cultured, he has a speech for the hostages a la die hard 1 in which he stated that he has no political statement. jacques’ wife asks for water for her infected daughter, a la holly asking for a couch for the pregnant woman in die hard 1. jacques has a fight in a narrow space with a terrorist henchman who’s lover instead of brother is killed by jacques. characters crawl through vents and air ducts while the bad guys shoot at the ceiling as in die hard 1. jacques leaves the train momentarily via motorcycle and has to get back on a la passenger 57. there is a train-helicopter-ladder-tunnel-explosion sequence a la under siege 2. the biological virus lead to authority wanting to destroy the train before the virus is spread further a la the rock. director bob misiorowski also directed the die hard-ish air panic, produced the die-hard-in-a-casino top of the world, and as “senior vice president of production” for dolph’s the peacekeeper. boaz davidson has a story credit, a name familiar to any action/dtv movie fans.
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