Movie News & Reviews

"Untraceable" proves unable to hold your attention

So I was running some calculations this weekend -- I had to do somethingto take my mind off the fact I couldn't see Rambo because mycar was frozen shut -- and it turns out if we had as many serial killersin real life as we do in the movies, everyone in the United Stateswould be dead five times over.

Go ahead, doublecheck my figures. I'll wait. Dum de dum dedum...back yet? OK, see what I mean? Dead five times over.Totally unrealistic, of course. In reality, your average human beingcan only be killed once. If you run the simulations, it's more likelywe'd all be murdered within the first three weeks (+/- 2 days), afterwhich the serial killers would be reduced to killing each other inHighlander-style until there's only one left. My money's onMr. Ripley: no one would suspect him until he's already clubbing themupside the face with an oar.

Untraceable is a serial killer movie with a fairly originalconcept: the killer doesn't toil in unappreciated obscurity, but doeshis 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 withfellow agents Colin Hanks (the smart computer dork) and Billy Burke(the not-dorky, gets-stuff-done guy). Early in the movie, Lane's suchan effective net cop she discovers and busts a scammer in the amountof time it takes most of us to eat a bowl of Cocoa Krispies (don'tfront, you know you love them), but this killer's Internet location isuntraceable.

Which means that, if his reign of torture-killings is to be brought toan end, it's going to be through run-of-the-mill police work. Whichfurther means it swiftly devolves into a standardstop-him-before-he-kills-again affair, with the possibility -- OK, thecertainty -- that the killer might come after Lane and her crew oncethey start to get too close to bringing him in.

Just about everything in Untraceable is so familiar it feelsmore like an outline than a new product. The killer's method soundsdifferent, then ends up looking like deleted scenes from theSaw franchise. (Again: where do these guys get theirmurderer's workshops?? They're like the dungeons of Norman castlesequipped with the armories of a Klingon Bird of Prey.) Lane's acommitted mother and cop who's made big sacrifices in the line ofduty. The killer's an utter mastermind whose puppet-like control ofeverything with software on it allows him to make gas stop flowing tocar engines and cell phones stop receiving satellite signals.

Wait, that last stuff is not so standard. In fact, it's maniacal. SoI guess that and the schoolmarmish hand-wringing about Internetvoyeurism are unique. Not that the movie actually has anything to sayabout net desensitization, but you can never hear too much of whatamounts to "tsk tsk," "what a bunch of bastards," and "kids thesedays: there's a problem with them."

Normally it'd be a good thing that first-time screenwriters RobertFyvolent and Mark Brinker don't spend too much time passing downjudgments from their pure-white unicorn world where it's somehow notcool to cheer for people being dissolved in tubs of acid (as if anyonewould watch their movie if it weren't), but Untraceable's gotso little else going for it in terms of suspense or interesting copsor criminals that I kind of wish they had cut loose with thesermonizing just to break up the monotony.

As it is, there's not much here. Nothing to make you hate it, butnothing to catch your attention. It's the kind of movie that's madeby watching other movies and duplicating what they did better. Inwhich case, you might as well just watch Silence of the Lambsagain instead.

Grade: C