– Summary –
Director : Gregory Hoblit
Cast : Diane lane, Colin Hanks, Joseph Cross, Billy Burke
Year Of Release : 2008
Length : 100 Minutes
Synopsis: A forensic computer analyst with the FBI becomes the target of a violent, psychopathic computer website host, when he streams live murders onto the internet, taunting the viewing public into assisting with the killing. The race is on to uncover both his identity, and his next victim, before it’s too late.
Review : Interesting, if somewhat morbid, and contrived thrill killing flick, with Diane Lane on cruise control and director Greg Hoblit trying (in vain) to extricate his cast from what is, essentially, a glorified torture porn exercise. The mystery is only slightly better than any episode of Law & order, and the outcome somewhat contemptuous of the build-up that comes before it. A let-down.
I have a theory, you know, about films starring either Ashley Judd or Diane Lane. Both actresses are quite good at their craft, both have a natural way of presenting themselves and they look good on camera. The problem is, neither one of those fine women can pick a decent film to be in. Judd has appeared in some of the most over hyped films that ended up being turkeys that I can remember. Kiss The Girls managed to sucker everybody in to watch it, but ended up being a run-of-the-mill crime “thriller”. I use the term thriller loosely. Double Jeopardy, another Judd film, was an utter waste of decent talent both in front of, and behind, the camera. She was miscast in Frida and was good in the poorly received De-Lovely. She’s an actress with so much potential that’s gone begging by the generic scripting of Hollywood.
Take Lane as well. Her oeuvre includes such pearls as the recent Jumper, The Glass House, The Perfect Storm, Jack, Judge Dredd, Knight Moves and My Dog Skip. Better films of hers include Hollywoodland, Unfaithful (almost borderline though), Murder at 1600 (by-the-numbers, but solid) and Chaplin (bit part), so as you can see, she’s a been somewhat hit-and-miss. Generally, a Diane Lane film will have a couple of things going for it: Lane gives even the poorest script more value than it’s worth (Judge Dredd) and she’s attractive, so even if the film’s Crap you can at least have something good to watch.
Both actresses are similar in career paths, as near as I can tell.
Studio heads love them, audiences love them, but they keep making rubbish films in amongst the occasional pearler. But both have unlived potential that has robbed their careers of momentum to make themselves true stars.
Untraceable, while purporting to show the limitless power of the internet, intends well, but falls into the category previously ascertained as Crap. Lane stars as a cybercrime officer with the FBI, Jennifer Marsh, pulling night duty to help care for her daughter. Her partner and friend, played with wide-eyed enthusiasm by Colin Hanks, is quick with the sardonic retort and their rapport on screen is wonderful.
Problem is, the script hamstrings the potential for any kind of character development between them, as they slip comfortably into the time-worn cliché that is undercover law enforcement and dark, spooky offices and computer screens. Yes, you’re in for a whole lot of computer geek talk and multiple monitors of information, with little-to-no real pizazz.
When a killer sets up his own website, KillWithMe?.com, and proceeds to stream live footage of animals and people being slowly murdered (the more people watching, the faster the victims die), you can almost guess what’s going to happen within the first twenty minutes of the films opening. Genre pictures are a pretty worn out bunch, and Untraceable shows a lot of wear in its hackneyed plotting and by-the-numbers characters.
Yet, for all it’s faults, Untraceable is actually a pretty decent watch: if you don’t mind a TV-series plot and some banal dialogue, then you might enjoy this film. That said, it’s not for everybody. The film lurches from one Victim Of The Website to another, with each victim dying in increasingly inventive and grotesque ways. Although narratively this builds up the tension, by the films end you kinda know how it’s gonna pan out: yes, Marsh ends up in the hands of the Vile Villain and she’s put online just like every other victim, and it’s a race against time to save her before the viewing numbers go up and she gets the chop.
While perhaps not being a plot full of twists and turns, the film is taut enough to generate a moment or two of genuine thrills, although the fact that they are few and far between makes this more of a chore and less entertaining than it should be. To be honest, I kept looking at the Villain’s features and thinking he looked like a cross between a young Tim Robbins and Dominic Monaghan from Lord Of The Rings, but a lot younger and more menacing. It’s something about the eyes….
Untraceable is kind of frustrating: in one sense it could have been a great episode of NCIS or CSI or whatever those shows are called; on the other hand, a little more effort in scripting and this could have been a genuine contender for a real, live, scary film. As it is, it skirts the borders of the latter, but too often strays into mediocrity and cliché.
Which is a pity.
Director Gregory Hoblit, himself a half-decent director, definitely had some good ideas here, although the execution seems a little… off. It feels almost as though there’s something missing from the film, almost like there’s bits and pieces from the script that could have helped in character development that were removed to cut down the running time.
Hoblit’s command of the camera is great, generally speaking, yet here I find his reserve and restraint almost palpable, almost as if he’s scared to show something that we need to see. I understand the concept of not giving the audience everything on a plate, to keep something unseen to generate an emotional response: note to studios and directors – this only works if the script, and the characters, are developed enough for us to give a toss.
Unfortunately, this film isn’t that grand an effort that we even care, really. Unlike the more developed Fallen, and the more commercial Frequency, Untraceable is another genre flick Hoblit’s given us and has dented by high opinion of him.
© 2008 – 2014, Rodney Twelftree. All rights reserved.