The villain may be Untraceable, but it’s easy to pin down the influences of Gregory Hoblit’s serial killer snoozer. Saw, FeardotCom, and of course, Se7en are all part of the derivative film’s lineage, which involves an agent (Diane Lane’s Jennifer Marsh) with the F.B.I.‘s Cyber Crimes division tasked with tracking down a fiend who straps people up to elaborate death machines and streams video of them dying on www.killwithme.com, the gimmick being that the more people visit the site, the quicker the victims perish. There’s a rhyme and reason behind these seemingly random murders, and the process of deducing it is pure paint-by-numbers, from the slow trickle of clues to the abduction and demise of someone close to Marsh, to the inevitable sequence that preys upon the bullshit threat that a child will come to horrific harm. Lurking beneath its shopworn genre exterior are some interesting ideas about humanity’s fascination with watching tragedy, our immense reliance on technology for everyday tasks, and the disconnect one feels from online content. Yet these topics are buried so very far beneath the rote set pieces and techno-babble that Marsh’s implicit evocation of Daniel Pearl feels less an apt allusion than a cheap, tasteless stab at real-world relevance. Untraceable‘s bad guy, it eventually turns out, is a hypocrite whose blog-filtered crimes mimic the very thing (i.e. exploitative Web content) he abhors, and the film functions likewise, arguing against fetishistic murder voyeurism while lustily presenting graphic scenes of torture and death. Lane treats her role with seriousness, but it’s all for naught given that this substandard thriller is generally devoid of suspense, and that its killer is driven by such fuzzy logic that one half-expects him—after he’s done punishing Lane for the F.B.I.‘s lack of suitable online monitoring—to target Al Gore for creating the Internet in the first place.
- Gregory Hoblit
- Robert Fyvolent, Mark R. Brinker, Allison Burnett
- Diane Lane, Billy Burke, Colin Hanks, Joseph Cross, Mary Beth Hurt, Peter Lewis
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