Review: Untraceable is World Class Terrible

Whew boy, is this movie awful. To think that a group of people got together to make this -- without any realization of the miserable mess that it is... well, you sort of have to hand it to them. Everyone could use that sort of delusion in their life. I envision the team in the screening room nodding their and heads thinking, "We've got it!" Fellas, you didn't get it. Trust me.

Untraceable revolves around the life of FBI agent Jennifer Marsh (played by an exhausted looking Diane Lane). She works the night shift in the cybercrimes division, tracking credit card thieves and the like. She comes across a website that threatens to kill a kitten live on streaming video and we're off. Nobody cares about the kitten, but of course the nastiness escalates and eventually bigger prey are involved. Though I couldn't possibly spoil this movie for you, I'll stick by my lifelong quest to avoid reviews that are only plot recaps and just move on.

What goes wrong? So, so much. Colin Hanks would have been fine as Lane's partner but his character is written so oddly that you never really warm to him. The Portland FBI office that Lane works in seems to be staffed mostly by the learning disabled and logical problem after logical problem presents itself only to be ignored. The premise of the movie is an online killer -- and the more people tune in to his online killing means the quicker the person dies. But the reasonable implications of that are never really considered. Who, for instance, could host 17 million concurrent video streams off their laptop? A vague reference is made to the genius of the killer but unless his dad is Joe YouTube the whole thing seems to be crazy improbable. Sure, I'm supposed to suspend disbelief for the sake of the movie, but when your central theme is how crazy and mean-spirited the Internet is than you'd better at least pay some attention to the details. Otherwise you just look like a fool.

The film is also pleasant enough to present us with 1.) an advertisement for OnStar and 2.) an advertisement for Windows Vista. I figured I'd pass along the message in case you take my warning and stay the hell away; I wouldn't want those companies to feel shortchanged.

The shocking part is that this guy (Gregory Hoblit) directed Primal Fear and Fallen, two very underrated and legitimate movies. So where did this ruthless effort come from? It's hard to figure.

There's a scene near the beginning where Diane Lane is explaining how the killer masks his Internet tracks. She throws out a lot of jargon clearly intended to wow the audience, only if you're under 40 or technically inclined you'll probably grasp it no problem. Anyway, her boss stares at her while she pontificates and then he mentions he has no idea what she's talking about. It's a throwaway scene, meant for a laugh, but it seems apt given how little intelligence was placed into this effort. How did her boss get into a leadership position without the vaguest clue of what his subordinates do all day? Who knows. It's not important. Just move along.

Grade: F