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Movie Review: Untraceable

Directed by Gregory Hoblit
Written by Robert Fyvolent, Mark Brinker, and Allison Burnett
Sony, 2008

Hoblit is a Steven Bochco disciple who broke into feature films with Primal Fear, the movie that introduced us to Edward Norton and an early Laura Linney.  He then did fairly decent movies Fallen and Frequency before moving on to megabomb Hart’s War and the OK Fracture last year.  So, he’s a guy who makes solid but never overly satisfying films.  He had no chance with the material of Untraceable.

There’s a pissed-off serial killer, Owen Reilly (Running With Scissors‘ Joseph Cross) out there who has found ways to rig up the internet to things that can kill people.  The more hits his site killwithme.com gets, the more harm to his victim until they are grotesquely dead.  Following this is FBI Portland’s Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane), along with co-worker buddy Griffin (Colin Hanks).  Then they get help (why?) from Detective Eric Box (Fracture’s Billy Burke).  The killings seem random, but of course they aren’t.

The reason Untraceable gets low marks is due to its largely hypocritical presentation.  The people who die, as the film notes, probably deserve what they get, yet Owen is wrong for killing them.  The media is a target because they exploit death for profit, and we’re a target because we tune in wanting more and more.  And yet, the movie’s action is entirely dependent upon this very thing. 

Also, I hate the phrase “torture porn” because I think it’s way too much of a wiseass term invented by those of us who critique films.  But there’s no doubt that the term is popular when referring to movies like Saw and Hostel.  And it’s as if the producers of Untraceable took the term “torture porn” and turned it mind-numbingly literal for this film.  But oh, don’t call us “torture porn” because we’re a little slicker and have better actors than that dreck.  Untraceable is every bit as sick as those movies.  That’s not why I dislike it, but it’s apparent “above it” attitude is nonsense.

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