May 17, 2008
Review - " Untraceable " (on DVD) - By Roland Hansen
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Directed by Gregory Hoblit
Written by Robert Fyvolent & Mark Brinker
Starring Diane Lane, Billy Burke, Collin Hanks
With the internet and cyberspace so common in everyone's life today, plus with the
reported upswing of crimes like identity theft and pornography on the net in it's own way
"Untraceable" is very relevant and common with today's times.
Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) is a single mother and a member of the FBI's cyber-crime
unit. Each night she goes to work and does her best to put away those who steal
identities, prey on children, and worse. Then comes the big call, she is tipped off to a
website called KillWithMe.com. (this is a real website owned by the studio to promote
the movie). Upon visiting the site, she discovers that people are being killed in
elaborate traps with the aid of the site's visitors. The more people that log on to the
site, the quicker the victim dies. With each successive victim, they die faster and faster.
She soon gets caught in a very personal and deadly cat-and-mouse game with a serial
killer who knows that people (being what they are - both curious and drawn to the dark
side of things) will log onto the "untraceable" website where he conducts violent and
painful murders LIVE on the net.
Diane Lane is masterful at playing the lonely 30 something looking for love (Under the Tuscan Sun, Must Love Dogs, Indian
Summer). She somewhat reprises that role here but it is used only as sub-text and isn’t truly explored. As a hard nosed FBI
agent she is only moderately believable. I can’t blame her for trying to branch out and do something new but she needs to
pick her projects better. Maybe she should just stick to the rom-coms. Colin Hanks has boyish charm and plays the lonely
computer geek looking for a girlfriend to a T. He adds a certain spark to the film as the resident comic relief and Marsh’s
scene-stealing best buddy. Billy Burke as Detective Box is the beefcake, mans man and provides the necessary love
interest/knight in shining armor for the single mom, devoted to her work, FBI agent. Burke gives a forgettable performance
as the cop with a crush on our widowed heroine. The romance is thankfully never fully explored and the focus is kept on
Marsh and her team’s race to track down a virtually untraceable technical mastermind. Burkes part is in actuality completely
unnecessary to the movie. You could cut him out 100% and the film would be exactly the same. However every crime thriller
must have one tough cop and Hanks’s character is too much of a geek to be a real man.
I had hoped that “Untraceable” would prove to be an intense thriller. By the time the film was halfway over, I had pretty
much given up on that hope. It became quickly apparent that the movie was attempting to show something beyond what it
was actually showing. “Untraceable” tries to be more about what it reflects of our own society than what it is actually
showing on the screen. It is more concept than execution.
In a similar way to last year's “I Know Who Killed Me”, Untraceable brings together the traditional thriller and the current
trend of torture-based horror films (a la Saw and Hostel). This film lacks the originality of even a movie as poorly received
and executed as “I Know Who Killed me”. Sure some of the contraptions employed by the killer are new to the screen, but
original kills do not an original movie make.
Probably one of the most over-used expressions lately is “torture-porn.” This over-generalization encompasses not only the
recent proliferation of films with shock value and elaborate murder sequences, but our own apparent obsessive desire to
watch such strange macabre events online. Behind the anonymity of screen names, people’s voyeuristic behaviors give an
audience to those who will literally do anything for attention, without all the guilt of association. Thus is the message of the
thriller “Untraceable”, which becomes immediately clear from the film’s been-there-done-than plot and preachy undertone.
But even given an abundance of material to use, “Untraceable” is mostly unremarkable and unmemorable.
Untraceable hopes to poke at our deepest curiosities by posing the inevitable question: If a real-life cyber-killing copycat
were to arise, would the public response be the same? Are people so perverse and addicted to the web that they would
willingly become accessories to murder for an electronic fix of chills and thrills? Probably.
But beneath its moral message, Untraceable is just another end-of-January
box-office filler, existing solely to give audiences a break from Oscar hopefuls
and Rambo remakes.
Modern horror movies often try to appeal to our prurient interests with a well
placed shower scene, teen sex, or at least a few nude breasts. Unfortunately for
us none of that exists in "untraceable" so you will have to walk out at the end.
But then again considering this film has little to recommend it maybe that isn't