With the ongoing success of the Saw and the Hostel franchises, it was only a matter of time before the “torture-porn” phenomenon tried to weasel its way into a mainstream movie. Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to take what was a horror-boys fantasy and legitimize it by throwing an established actress like Diane Lane at it. The outcome, sadly, is Untraceable.
It’s your basic crime thriller, pitting law enforcement against a sole perpetrator, in the tried and true, cat and mouse, catch me if you can fashion. The difference – the attempted use of disturbing images of torture and bondage to overshadow weak writing and a thin plot. The story revolves around Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane), a single mom and F.B.I. agent, as she and her partner in the Cyber Crimes unit Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks), try to catch a demented serial killer who takes pride in killing his victims in ever more painful manners. But the story goes one step further, the killer has set up an untraceable website named “Kill With Me” and broadcasts his deeds live over the internet for all to see. But wait! It goes one step further even – the catch is, the more viewers, the faster the victim dies. Oh the thrill!
Anyways, although I’m fairly sure it is obvious, the killer sets his eyes on Jennifer and those around her. Why, I’m not entirely sure; I suppose first time screen writers, Robert Fyvolent, Mark Brinker and Allison Burnett figured the only way to drum up the intensity would be to have the heroine personally vested in the outcome of things. While this fails miserably, the one thing they did get right, was Untraceable was in dire need of intensity – lots of it. The killer doesn’t bring anything to the table. Whereas Hannibal Lecter (from Silence of the Lambs) fascinated and disgusted you at the same time, this guy is simply there with a cockamamie story meant to garner sympathy for his actions. And whereas Jodie Foster gave a performance of a lifetime as Clarice Starling, Diane Lane sleepwalks her way through her performance as Jennifer. It’s a shame really, because Ms. Lane is a much better actress than this.
The only aspect of this flick worth noting is the interesting methods this deranged guy goes about dispatching his victims with. Encasing a guy in cement and burning him with heat lamps is particularly brutal, but not as vicious as submersing a man in a vat of sulfuric acid is. Untraceable does not mean to glorify these actions (after all the goal is to stop them from happening), so most of the unthinkable is left to the imagination. Even without seeing it, it gives an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach. Eli Roth take notes.
For me, Untraceable had lofty goals that fizzled shortly after the opening credits scrolled across the screen. Die hard torture lovers may get a quick thrill but I suspect they’ll grow weary from the lack of follow-through. Followers of good thrillers will easily lose interest due to the unimaginative and obvious plot lines. Even lovers of Diane Lane (like myself) will be hard pressed to sit through the entire running time of this (approximately 100 minutes). Basically, it’s an all around bad movie for everyone.