Friday, January 25, 2008

Untraceable (**)

Directed by Gregory Holbit


Through the process of looking up Gregory Holbit's resume on IMDb, I felt pretty ignorant in finding that he is the same man who directed Primal Fear and Frequency. I enjoyed both films, thought they were clever, and had sensible endings. I must say, though, that both films left me unsettled in the way that neither seemed much interested in character or story, as much as pure spectacle (though Edward Norton has still never been better than when he was in Primal Fear). Holbit's newest film, Untraceable, left me with the same feeling, only it lacked the charm and thrills the other two had.

Untraceable follows Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane), a widow with a daughter, who also happens to be the head of the FBI Portland Cyber Crimes unit. A majority of her work depends on tracking down kids who are pirating music and films off the internet, as well as catching the lowly child pornographers. She is helped by her witty partner Griffin (Colin Hanks--Tom's son), who spends time dating many women he meets over the internet (though it doesn't seem very sensible since his job is constantly telling him how dangerous unknown people on the internet can be).

The story begins when Jennifer is introduced to a site entitled "kill with me" which videotapes people dying in a seedy basement while being streamed all over the country. The way that the site works is, the more people who visit the site, the quicker the victim will die. When seeing the havoc that this skilled killer is creating, Jennifer and the rest of the unit try desperately to track him down, but unfortunately he is completely... well, I think you get the idea.

I guess this is where the problems begin, because the entire credibility of this killer's "untraceability" is described in computer jargon that we are inevitably supposed to buy into, because basically we're not supposed to be able to understand what they're saying anyway (which I didn't). Things get worse when the FBI decides to go public and tell the world that they shouldn't visit the site, and that anybody who does is an accomplice in murder. As Jennifer had feared, going public only gave the site more publicity, causing his victims to die at an alarmingly quick rate.

I think the concept is interesting, and I do believe that if a site like this would ever really happen, many a sick individual (even the not-so-sick) would visit the site in droves in order to see someone die. Where I get lost is when the filmmakers decide to make this killer so unbelievably proficient. This isn't the first film that does this, surely, but when did screenwriters decide that all psychopathic killers are also acrobatic, flexible ninjas who have the ability to be invisible when they shouldn't be, and have an almost impossible anticipation for things to come?

What is somewhat entertaining to watch (at times) is the actors. Lane is very capable to play the part of Jennifer Marsh, and her performance is what keeps the film average, quite frankly. I think she competently shows the complex emotions felt by the widowed mother and staunch detective. Like most characters of her sort in these kinds of films, she seems to be the only person with the brains to be able to catch this lunatic, while everyone else worries about how it will look to the public. What coincidence that the killer will then go after her before the movie ends (if you saw any kind of preview for the film, this is not a spoiler).

To be fair, I should say that this film has an ending that is very exciting, even though you know what will happen. It ends on a very good note, and makes you realize that there was at least a few moments in the film that were truly scary. This film is a crime thriller in the tradition of such films as Se7en or Saw where there is just a truly psychopathic killer who uses murder to prove a point. What's his point? Americans are obsessed with violence? People will visit a mysterious site out of pure curiosity even if they know it will kill someone? Well, to be honest, I buy that premise, but I wish more of the film had been spent dealing with that premise, then unsuccessfully trying to create suspense.

1 comment:

sylvia said...

i don't think i'll see this movie. maybe on video, if I watched them.