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What we have so far is one dead cat and a man who may or may not be in danger.


Untraceable
(2008)

What a bunch of crap.

Diane Lane’s FBI agent must hunt a serial killer with a yen for posting his victims’ torture and murder on the Internet in real time. She is aided by several colleagues including Tom Hanks’ son and the psychopathic dad from Day 2 of 24 (the one who chases Kim, remember; then he shows up in Twilight as a nice dad – it’s all so confusing!). Cue multitudinous scenes of frantic tapping at keyboards, and dialogue/sequences that make it painfully clear the writers haven’t the faintest clue about plot logic, let alone FBI procedure. And, who would have guessed, lots of cuts to chatroom responses to the gruesome acts – LOL!

The movie Untraceable brought to mind was another tedious, hack -ob serial killer picture with no redeeming qualities; The Bone Collector. The cobbled-together script has zero interest in character, motivation, plot development, detective work, suspense; neither movie ever once summons up a glimmer of conviction to displace the awareness that this is uninspired, uninventive dross.

What we do get is a reheated plot resembling a decade-old episode of Millennium but with added torture-porn violence. The “watch murder on the internet” premise is so derivative, I’m surprised any exec was willing to say yes to purchasing the scrip, let alone usher the thing into production. Then again, this comes from Sony’s Screen Gems label, not exactly known for its innovative genre fare. It should come as little surprise that neither of the original co-writers has been credited on a movie since.

I like Diane Lane. Not only is she a decent actress, she’s also very pretty. Hopefully she’ll be sensible enough to age gracefully rather than succumb to the itch to mess up her face. Lane never quite made it into the ranks of fully-fledged movie star (the closest she came was probably Adrian “steamy” Lyne’s 2002 adultery flick Unfaithful), having got her break in a trio of ‘80s Coppola pictures. Many will probably remember her best for playing Judge Hershey in the Stallone Judge Dredd, so it seems fitting that playing Superman’s adopted mum in Man of Steel should eclipse that (it’s surprising that Lane and Costner have never played a couple onscreen before; they just seem like they should have done).

Anyway, I digress. Appropriately enough as Untraceable deserves exactly that level of commitment.  Lane’s support comes from Colin Hanks, who plays the nerdy Colin Hanks type. His career involvement with serial killers only marginally improves later, as he appears in the weakest season of Dexter as one. I’m still always surprised whenever Billy Burke plays a good guy (I’m frankly perplexed that he is the lead in TV series Revolution) as he has the perfect face for villainy. All three leads are perfectly competent but done absolutely no favours by a script that, as I have noted, isn’t.

Presiding over this shambles is Gregory Hoblit, who once seemed to have a promising career ahead of him in the twisty thriller genre. He’s an above average journeyman director, and his first three films (Primal Fear, Fallen and Frequency) all had points in their favour; not least in a director with a firm grasp of how to elicit the required tension from a scene. The 2000s were less kind to him. Hart’s War and Fracture are patchy at best, but even they didn’t forewarn this disaster. Perhaps he realised how badly it stank and all motivation deserted him. No one could have made this even borderline palatable, but it would be a shame if a helmer more competent than many who are getting regular gigs is consigned to director hell.

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