Country: Aruba / United States
Director: Bob Misiorowski
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Tomas, Arana, Laura Harring, Susan Gibney, Lucy Jenner, Jessica Bowman, Kristopher Van Varenberg, John Bishop, Dayton Callie, Jimmy Jean-Louis
Editor: Marc Jakubowicz, Fernando Villena
Writers: Boaz Davidson, Jace Anderson, Adam Gierasch
Cinematographer: Ross W. Clarkson
Music: Serge Corbet
Producers: Kathy Brayton, Boaz Davidson, Danny Dimbort, Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner, Scott Putman, Trevor Short, David Varod
AKA: Terror Train
With the exception of JCVD, when did Jean-Claude Van Damme’s film career turn to shit? Okay Van Damme may have never been a true A-lister, but for a while he was putting out some decent product. I think Hard Target was the beginning of the rot. Hard Target was heavily promoted due to John Woo’s involvement, but the end result was – well, I thought it was an inferior remake of Avenging Force starring Michael Dudikoff. I realise Dudikoff appeared to be on an up at that stage of his career, due to the success of the first two American Ninja movies, but come on, when looking for A-list material, you shouldn’t troll through Dudikoff’s garbage bin. Maybe they are both variations on The Most Dangerous Game – but even then they are litigiously similar, right down to the New Orleans setting.
I am sure Hard Target made money (and I know it has its fans too), but it signified the last true attempt for Van Damme to inherit the Schwarzenegger tough-guy crown. Van Damme’s films dropped in quality thereafter and new contenders arrived on the action scene. I have no idea how many movies he has made in the last fifteen years. They all go direct to DVD and their cover art all looks the same. But at least Van Damme’s career hasn’t nosedived to the stupifying levels of Steven Seagal’s.
Derailed was released in 2002, but the previous year, Van Damme made The Order, and to be brutally honest it is trash. But it’s watchable trash, with a few redeeming features, like the amazing location footage in Jerusalem, and of course, some of the fight scenes. There was enough things going ‘right’ in The Order to suggest that Van Damme was dragging his career back on track. Where it goes wrong, is the crude attempts to inject some comedy into the proceedings. There Van Damme comes off as a poor-man’s Jackie Chan. This is further enforced by the Jackie-esque blooper reel at the end of the movie. Both Van Damme and Chan have their respective styles, and I don’t believe that Van Damme has to borrow Jackie’s. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with trying something new, but this so clearly crosses into Chan territory that it is embarrassing. But none-the-less, I enjoyed The Order.
That brings us to Derailed, and I was really wishing and hoping this film would prove that Van Damme was back. But as the saying goes, ‘if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride‘. But hopefully not ride on trains, because, to put it bluntly, Derailed in one of the worst fucking films ever made.
Outside of a military compound in Slovakia, a car breaks down. The driver, Galina Konstantin (Laura Harring) gets out and pops the bonnet. One of the guards on duty, walks over to offer assistance. For his trouble, she clobbers him, rendering him unconscious.
Then she breaks into the compound, scaling the wall with climbing equipment. Along the way, she beats up a few more guards. Then she gets to the safe, which she breaks in to using a laser. She steals a biological Maguffin – in fact a mutated strain of smallpox called SP43.
Meanwhile, in Vienna, Austria, Jacques Kristoff (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is holidaying with his family, who he doesn’t get to see too often, due to his work. Well, he should be holidaying with his family – instead he meets his boss at a restaurant. It seems that Kristoff in some kind of secret agent, and a mission has come up that requires his desperate attention.
Kristoff is reluctant to take the assignment, but has little choice. Naturally enough, his family (wife and two kids – his son played by his real-life son) are extremely disappointed. More so, as they do not know he is a secret agent – believing he is a simple business man.
Kristoff’s mission is to meet Galina, who is selling the biological agent, in Bratislava, and escort her to Munich. As the airports are being watched, they have to make the journey by train.
Kristoff goes to the pre-arranged meeting place, which is a theatre and meets Galina. But before the introductions are over, the theatre is raided by a squad of armed troops. Kristoff and Galina flee – in a scene which is supposed to be balletic and cutting edge all at the same time. It doesn’t work. Instead, it comes off as poorly choreographed and confusing.
It must be equally confusing for the troops, as Kristoff and Galina manage to escape the building, fleeing onto the streets. As they steal a taxi, a noisy car chase ensues – ending with the destruction and explosion of a petrol station.
Our heroic duo make it to the train station in time, and board the train to Munich. In no time, they are across the border. The mission should be easy from there on out. You’d think!
Matters get worse, when Kristoff’s family turn up on the train to surprise him. He is caught with Galina, and they believe he is having an affair. However, before he patch things up, the train is hi-jacked by an old acquaintance of Galina’s, Mason Cole (Tomas Arana) – and his band of henchmen – who seem like rejects from Die Hard 2. Cole wants the smallpox virus – and he gets it – in the process, one of the tubes is smashed, and the virus is released on the train – turning the story into a second rate Cassandra Crossing.
There are so many plot holes in this film, that picking on them would just appear mean-spirited, but needless to say, I think this is the worst JCVD film I have ever seen. Not only is it poorly written, but it is poorly filmed and edited. The fights scenes are shot so tightly, and then cut so badly – any style, finesse and skill that Van Damme possesses as a martial artist is completely negated.
No, sorry, I am going to be mean spirited. Look, I love trash films, and more than most people, I am willing to suspend my disbelief and embrace the ridiculous and the poorly plotted. In fact, that’s my bread and butter. I live for ridiculous and the poorly plotted. But to that end, I expect the ridiculous and the poorly plotted when magical occurrences happen in movies. But in this film – after Kristoff’s son is killed off – when he magically turns up alive on the train, I demand an explanation. The film gives us nothing. At least the film-makers could have suggested he was hiding on the roof, or under a chair, or even have fucking aliens sweep down from the heavens and teleport him aboard their ship just prior to the explosion. Then beam him back on board. Okay, that’s a crap idea! But at least it’s a reason for the revival and/or survival of Kristoff’s son. The film, as it stands, gives the viewer nothing. And that really pisses me off. It’s almost insulting.
As you have guessed, I didn’t like this one. I think I now have to watch a Michael Dudikoff movie as an antidote – to once again restore my faith in B-grade action cinema.