I’ll preface this write up by saying Untraceable is far from the worst movie I’ve seen doing this little shindig we call “Worst Movies Ever”, but it’s a far cry from the best. In fact, it’s just shoddy and poor all the way around.
Diane Lane plays FBI Agent Jennifer Marsh, a lady who starts out as a no-nonsense, ass-kicking kind of cybercrime agent. By that, I mean she picks up the phone and literally requests a door knocked down based on circumstantial evidence that would never actually get you a warrant in real life. Already, this movie? It bores me.
Marsh is asked to investigate a website with her partner, Griffin Dowd. Killwithme.com features a kitten stuck to fly paper, unable to move as people watch the thing suffer and die. Once the audience is successfully disturbed and a modicum of sensibility that the future serial killer is a sicko has been established, we move on.
Marsh, it seems, is a dedicated family woman! She’s a single mom, lives with her mom and her daughter and throws roller-rink birthday parties where she invites her coworkers. How sweet. It’s too bad there’s a psychopathic serial killer who likes to broadcast his major killings on the internets, huh? That’ll totally fuck with your suburban household downtime.
Here’s where the film fucking explodes into stupidity.
Each victim is selected and broadcast for everyone to see on the Internet. The more hit counts the website gets, the quicker the victim dies.
One victim is pumped full of anti-coagulants and made to bleed to death; another is stuck under high-powered lamps and somehow burned to death. When Griffin discovers the identity of the killer, he’s rounded up and summarily dispatched in a tank of water quickly infused with sulfuric acid. Pleasant.
Miraculously, Griffin helps them solve the case by blinking in Morse code, referring back to an earlier instance in the movie where he wished the victim would…just…blink in Morse code. How very clever, makers of Untraceable.
The whole thing smacks of Saw-like sensibility. I should note that I enjoyed the first Saw but I think the sequels are tired, opportunistic retreads that lost sight of what the first film was all about. While Saw is – believe me – not an inherently deep, philosophical film, it does raise certain uncomfortable questions to a viewer, if you’re willing to actually think about it for two seconds. Untraceable never gets that far. The FBI agents continually bemoan the HORRIBLE, AWFUL people that keep logging on to the website, those FREAKS ON THE INTERNET. Hmm. Say, FREAKY CITIZENS OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE INTERNET, how do you feel as being portrayed as a mindless group of morons who have nothing to do all day but watch someone snuff it out online and cheer for it? Someone give me a ROFLCOPTER, yo.
I suppose it wouldn’t be as blatantly moronic if not for the killer and his motive. You see the killer when Dowd dies, I’d wager a good thirty minutes before the movie ends. The killer ends up being the son of a man who committed suicide on a bridge while a TV news crew filmed him and it went up all over the internet. Since everyone got such a big laugh out of his dad dying, the son has decided to extract his pound of flesh in an appropriate manner.
In Hollywoodland, I guess this is an acceptable motive but it makes the parade of needlessly exotic and over-the-top murders you’ve just witnessed feel very pointless. It seems like an awful lot of trouble to set up things like… oh, I don’t know – big fucking tanks of water with timed sulfuric acid drips, or encasing a man in an enormous block of concrete while setting up huge sun lamps on him to barbeque him to death – to prove that particular point.
In the end, Diane Lane nearly meets her demise via roto-tiller but manages to escape, kill the freaky psycho son, and save the day! Hooray! Diane Lane is the moral victor in the massive hive of internet scum and villainy.
After sitting down and writing all of the above, I took a look-see at the other various reviews on the internet and I swear, if I have to see the phrase “torture porn” one more time, then Mama is gettin’ the chainsaw. I loathe that term. I abhor it, to bust out a 25 cent SAT word. ** A lot of reviews seem to think that Untraceable is condemning the “torture porn” genre, something I sort of concur on. Most reviewers indicate that Untraceable becomes what it condemns. (I personally don’t agree.) I don’t think it’s that smart. I don’t think Untraceable is anything more than someone getting all up on their soapbox and up in everybody’s business, preaching endlessly about very bad things. I also have varied views on the genre it’s supposed to condemn and I’d hesitate to link the two together. I think it’s a movie that’s supposed to MORALLY OUTRAGE you about the HORRIBLE CREATURES WE’VE ALL BECOME!
While I clutch my pearls, makers of Untraceable, let me roll my eyes and say, “Whatevs, is this news to you?”
It’s boring, it feels cheap and I left feeling like I’d watched a gorier version of “More You Know” PSA sans a cast member of Friends or ER.
** I could probably write a whole separate blog post on why I hate the torture porn label, but long story short is that it strips the film of any meaning or point besides gory scenes intended to titillate. Love them or hate them, a lot of the films slapped with the “torture porn” label by indignant filmgoers and critics actually contain things to ponder and/or points the filmmakers are trying to get across. Not saying they’re necessarily good, just that there are some substance to most of these movies. I don’t like the laziness of the term.