Untraceable (2008)

Untraceable (click for larger image)Reviewed by Andrew Kasch

Starring Diane Lane, Billy Burke and Colin Hanks

Directed by Gregory Hoblit

Wasn’t “Millennium” a great show? The creators of Untraceable obviously thought so, because they’ve plagiarized one of its best episodes – “The Mikado” in which an elusive Zodiac killer broadcasts the murder of his victims on a website. Except in place of Lance Henriksen, we now have uber-MILF Diane Lane and instead of a clever script, there’s a whole lot of suspense-movie stupidity.

Lane plays FBI agent Jennifer Marsh, one of those sexy middle-aged computer experts that only exists in movie land. When she stumbles onto a website called www.killwithme.com, she finds a sadistic madman who loves to torture victims via webcam. As the title suggests, the site can’t be traced, leaving the FBI clueless while the killer taunts them with internet lingo (“ROFL!”). In a twist (also stolen from “Millennium”), the murders are rigged up to the net, so the more hits the website receives, the faster the victim dies. Who is to blame – the killer or the blood-thirsty viewers?

I blame Al Gore.

Untraceable (click for larger image)Untraceable is one of those movies that try to pass itself off as smart Hollywood “thriller” fare. You can smell these cinematic turds from a mile away. They usually star Ashley Judd and are made by delusional producers who turn their noses up at the very genre they’re working in, only to produce the sort of hackneyed bullshit that make the Saw films seem downright intellectual by comparison. If I could trace the whereabouts of those responsible for this movie, I would extract my own brand of torture for robbing me of 100 precious minutes. Naturally, I’d start with director Gregory Hoblit who previously helmed cinematic “classics” like Fallen, Hart’s War, and Fracture. It goes without saying that this is a movie befitting of a career full of meaningless studio tripe and in a year’s time, no one will even remember it.

You would think that with this concept, Untraceable would contain even a little entertainment value. You’d be dead wrong, mainly because this movie has no fucking idea what it’s trying to achieve. The killer is revealed 1/3rd of the way through the story, so it’s not a whodunit. The FBI rarely finds anything in the way of clues, so it’s not much of a procedural. The killer barely interacts with the authorities, so it’s not a cat-and-mouse game. And you can forget about the torture porn aspect, because the murders are about as inventive as something you’d see on a prime time cop series. And that’s what Untraceable is – a drawn-out episode of “CSI” where nothing much happens. Someone is abducted and put on the web, while our heroes stare shocked at their computer screens with thumbs up their collective asses. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Through it all, the script tries to make some thoughtful statements on the public’s morbid fascination with viral media, but it’s the same old song and dance. The only thing I learned from Untraceable is that I should never equip my car with On Star, because a murdering psychopath could easily hack into the system and control my Nissan Sentra.

Untraceable (click for larger image)Yes, that’s this movie’s idea of clever. “Welcome to On Star. Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

I’m sure critics will throw every pun in the book at this one: Unwatchable. Unbearable. Uninteresting. I’m just going to call it shit. And with that, I close with a quote from our forums, courtesy of “Mr Dark”:

I still want to do my completely straight, serious slasher/stalker movie and, at the big reveal at the end, the killer is the INTERNET. Some guy with a monitor for a head, chasing our heroine with a butcher knife.

It already has a leg up on Untraceable.

1 1/2 out of 5

Discuss this stinker in the Dread Central forums!

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

  • PelusaMG

    You mean On Star can’t take control of your vehicle? Next you’ll be telling that Knight Rider is fiction and that there’s no such thing as a talking, self-driving car!

  • Sirand

    I thought the Saw sequels were slightly better than average movies (hated the first one). While Jigsaw is a deep character, the movies are nothing more than gory entertainment.

  • Johnny Truant

    Fallen was actually pretty cool.

    BTW: Andy, you took a potshot at the “Saw” movies in this review, yet you gave the previous entries in the franchise favorable reviews. Just thought I’d throw that out there. And the “Saw” movies do have a philosophical/moral center to them, whereas this (Untraceable) just wants to be more than what it is.

  • Mr. Dark

    My name in lights! Seriously, I had that quote run through my head the moment I first saw the trailer for this one. Oh boy, another movie where the Internet is the killer!

    I honestly gave this one a shot until it did the OnStar thing. I mean, dude, it’s 2008, can anyone hire a PA who logged onto the Internet for 10 minutes to check on even the most basic elements of the plot and their possibility?

    Oh well, life (and movies that have no idea how the Internet works) goes on.

    Mr. Dark
    Part-Time Dread Central Gaming Guy
    Full-Time Freelance Smartass