Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Friday, July 14, 2017

JCVD-A-THON: Derailed (2002)

As I mentioned at the start of this marathon, I've been a guest on the delightfully specific Jean-Pod Van Damme podcast a few times. That show's host, Marcus, is a Van Damme enthusiast and expert. He probably has something good to say about every one of the star's features... Except “Derailed.” He considers “Derailed” the absolute low-point of Van Damme's career and, by far, his worst film. Going into “Derailed,” I was wondering if the film really could be that bad. I was not misled. “Derailed” is easily the worst movie Jean-Claude Van Damme has ever starred in. It might be one of the worst movies I've ever seen, period.

“Derailed's” plot doesn't make much sense but I'll try and untangle it the best I can. Galina Konstantin is a circus performer turned international thief. She has stolen a vile of biological weapons from the Slovakian government. Jacques Kristoff, an intentional agent of some sort, is sent to capture Konstantin. Once he grabs her, the two are sent home, via train. A group of terrorists board the train, with the intention of stealing the bio-weapon for their own means. That sounds simple enough, being yet another variation on the “Die Hard” formula. “Derailed” complicates matters but releasing some of the contagion, infecting the passengers with small pox. There's something about the government planning to bomb the train, one of Jacques' partners being aligned with the terrorists, and other bullshit added to an overcrowded stew.

When it comes to low budget action movies, I keep my expectations measured. At the very least, the action scenes should be easy to follow. “Derailed” does not accomplish this seemingly simple goal. In fact, the action is utterly incompetent in its construction and execution. In several scenes, the fights are so frenziedly edited that you can barely understand what's happening. At one point, Van Damme is wrestling with a bad guy in a hallway, the position of the characters moving suddenly from shot to shot. Another scene, hampered by some truly atrocious green screen effects, has our hero riding a motorcycle over the train... At apparently the same speed as somebody standing on the opposite side of the car? Another moment, before Van Damme performs a spinning body-slam, jerks forward in time without explanation. This is Jean-Claude Van Damme we're working with, a man who knows how to perform impressive action. “Derailed” is so chopped and scattered that his work becomes impossible to appreciate.

“Derailed” isn't just incoherent directed but also deeply tacky. Director Bob Misiorowski was a regular of Nu Image/Millennium Pictures' productions, with his most notable previous credit being “Shark Attack.” His attempts to spruce up “Derailed” are misguided. Misiorowski employs slow motion for the most random bullshit. Van Damme seemingly poking an enemy into slumber is emphasized with slow-mo. One scene is portrayed in split-screen. There's no point to this, as putting two chaotic fight scenes next to each makes both hard to follow. Another sequence features still images flashing on-screen, while Van Damme dangles from the train. Other scenes are highlighted by image blurring. Did I mention the Howie Scream also puts in a pointless appearance? When “Derailed” isn't using garish tricks like this, he indulges in some truly godawful CGI. An early car crash blossoms into a ridiculously overdone explosion. Later, two CGI trains crash into each other in a way that makes zero sense. Its baffling in its badness.

It's clear that Jean-Claude Van Damme isn't especially proud of “Derailed.” Throughout the film, his expressions vary between bored and irritated. In another blatant attempt to emulate “Die Hard,” Jacques' wife and kids are on the train. Van Damme's real life son, Kristopher, plays his son here. The only time Jean-Claude comes to life throughout “Derailed” is when he's practicing roundhouse kicks with his boy. Otherwise, the film's supporting cast is disheartening. Laura Harring appears as the thief/acrobat. Harring shows none of the talent she displayed in “Mulholland Dr.,” instead giving a garish and obnoxious performance. Susan Gibney is bitchy as Jacques' wife. The hostages include a cowboy, an Australian, and a concert violinist, each one broad stereotypes. Even the bad guy, played by a baffled Tomas Arana, seems pretty bored.

“Derailed” too perfectly sums up the kind of schlock Nu Image/Millennium Productions specialized in at the time. The mixture of shitty CGI, derivative writing, and incoherent action were standard practice at the company. Even by these low standards, the film finds new ways to baffle the viewer with its incompetence. “Derailed” might've become enjoyably bad – one of Van Damme's foes attacks him with a fork – if it wasn't incredibly boring. By the last half-hour, I had completely lost the ability to care or understand anything that was happening in this movie. The film is garbage of the highest degree and it's a bummer that Van Damme had to star in it. [2/10]

[THE VAN DAMMAGE: 3 outta 5]
[] An Entire Fight, Sans Shirt
[X] Close-Up Screaming
[] Dancing
[X] Jump-Kicks A Guy, Through Something
[X] Performs Either a Split or a Spinning Roundhouse Kick

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