That's the message being preached in this chaotic thriller about a deranged murderer who tortures his victims while inviting Internet viewers to his website to watch. The more viewers who visit, the faster the victims succumb. And while the filmmakers are probably mostly accurate in what they have to say about the reckless morals of anonymous Internet hounds, Youtube freaks, and Jackass aficionados, it's clear they've bitten off more than they can chew when the film starts wobbling aimlessly between smart psych thriller (a la The Silence of the Lambs), and torture-porn disciple like the Saw films. It sometimes even dabbles in police procedural and murder mystery too. It would be all too easy to write the film off as a complete mess, were it not for some of the things it does get right.
Diane Lane is perfect as Jennifer Marsh, a special agent within the cyber crimes unit of the FBI. She mostly follows the trail of ID thieves and credit card scammers, but is often drawn into more serious cases like the one above. Lane's Marsh is a very well rounded character whom we get to know and care a great deal about. That she's a widow doing her best to juggle a career with the duties of mothering an eight-year old girl, instantly allows us to warm to her and genuinely care for her well-being. A miss here by Lane and everything else really wouldn't matter.
It's obvious director Gregory Hoblit (Fracture) knows where to put the camera for maximum effect and is certainly good at building tension. But whereas films that handled similar subject matter much better, (like The Silence of the Lambs for instance), here Hoblit and screenwriters (primary of which is Allison Burnett), fill us in on the killer's (Joseph Cross) identity a bit too early. Jame Gumb was one freaky S.O.B., but we weren't made aware of his intentions nor his complete psyche - until the latter portion of the film. Here nearly all mystery and suspense is sapped about half way through the film when we learn who the sadistic degenerate is, and why he does what he does. From then on, we're just front-row ticket holders to a seemingly endless onslaught of painful tortures and bizarre killings.
The film is technically astute, shiny and well-paced. But despite all the torture and maiming inflicted by the untraceable killer, he's just not villainous enough. Mean-spirited and calculatingly conniving... yes. But he's a little too distant and inaccessible to seem real. He's just an anonymous moderator of a web site who more closely resembles a pimple-faced little kid with too much time on his hands, than he does a menacing monster. And yes, I understand the real bad guys are supposed to be the millions of Americans who punch up the website thereby hastening the deaths, but it's just too hard to hate anonymous accomplices. We needed a Hannibal Lecter or a Jigsaw to really rouse the ire and emotion, but instead we got an effigy of Bill Gates.
Untraceable goes for maximum effect when it tries to ridicule and repulse its viewers by suggesting we'd all be too comfortable in our little cocoons of anonymity to refrain from visiting the killer's web site. But that suggestion has lost its impact over the last few years as web site viewers continue to max-out the visitor counters of real-life web sites that show executions of evil dictators, and beheadings of innocent journalists. If the film's premise - that a web site visitor can kill people - is to be effective, it needs to feel like the most inconceivably despicable concept imaginable. But in today's Internet, that notion is already a reality. Untraceable is about four or five years too late. Besides, you read this entire review, so anything is possible in today's Internet-enabled world.
Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.40:1
Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; Language and Sound:; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; bonus featurettes.
* Commentary - audio commentary With Filmmakers Gregory Hoblit, Hawk Kock and Paul Eads
o Tracking Untraceable, Behind The Scenes;
o The Blueprint Of A Murder;
o The Making-Of Untraceable;
o The Anatomy Of A Murder;
o Makeup Special Effects
Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase Packaging
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