So I was running some calculations this weekend -- I had to do something to take my mind off the fact I couldn't see Rambo because my car was frozen shut -- and it turns out if we had as many serial killers in real life as we do in the movies, everyone in the United States would be dead five times over.
Go ahead, doublecheck my figures. I'll wait. Dum de dum de dum...back yet? OK, see what I mean? Dead five times over. Totally unrealistic, of course. In reality, your average human being can only be killed once. If you run the simulations, it's more likely we'd all be murdered within the first three weeks (+/- 2 days), after which the serial killers would be reduced to killing each other in Highlander-style until there's only one left. My money's on Mr. Ripley: no one would suspect him until he's already clubbing them upside the face with an oar.
Untraceable is a serial killer movie with a fairly original concept: the killer doesn't toil in unappreciated obscurity, but does his murders on a Web site viewable by all -- and the more hits he gets, the faster his victims are killed.
FBI cyber crimes agent Diane Lane is assigned to the case, along with fellow agents Colin Hanks (the smart computer dork) and Billy Burke (the not-dorky, gets-stuff-done guy). Early in the movie, Lane's such an effective net cop she discovers and busts a scammer in the amount of time it takes most of us to eat a bowl of Cocoa Krispies (don't front, you know you love them), but this killer's Internet location is untraceable.
Which means that, if his reign of torture-killings is to be brought to an end, it's going to be through run-of-the-mill police work. Which further means it swiftly devolves into a standard stop-him-before-he-kills-again affair, with the possibility -- OK, the certainty -- that the killer might come after Lane and her crew once they start to get too close to bringing him in.
Just about everything in Untraceable is so familiar it feels more like an outline than a new product. The killer's method sounds different, then ends up looking like deleted scenes from the Saw franchise. (Again: where do these guys get their murderer's workshops?? They're like the dungeons of Norman castles equipped with the armories of a Klingon Bird of Prey.) Lane's a committed mother and cop who's made big sacrifices in the line of duty. The killer's an utter mastermind whose puppet-like control of everything with software on it allows him to make gas stop flowing to car engines and cell phones stop receiving satellite signals.
Wait, that last stuff is not so standard. In fact, it's maniacal. So I guess that and the schoolmarmish hand-wringing about Internet voyeurism are unique. Not that the movie actually has anything to say about net desensitization, but you can never hear too much of what amounts to "tsk tsk," "what a bunch of bastards," and "kids these days: there's a problem with them."
Normally it'd be a good thing that first-time screenwriters Robert Fyvolent and Mark Brinker don't spend too much time passing down judgments from their pure-white unicorn world where it's somehow not cool to cheer for people being dissolved in tubs of acid (as if anyone would watch their movie if it weren't), but Untraceable's got so little else going for it in terms of suspense or interesting cops or criminals that I kind of wish they had cut loose with the sermonizing just to break up the monotony.
As it is, there's not much here. Nothing to make you hate it, but nothing to catch your attention. It's the kind of movie that's made by watching other movies and duplicating what they did better. In which case, you might as well just watch Silence of the Lambs again instead.