Saturday, February 2, 2008

Cops Fight Cyber Killer in "Untraceable"

** out of ****
Diane Lane dukes it out with a Web site and all its watchers in the new cop thriller "Untraceable."

Director Gregory Hoblit, who had the great Sir Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling fighting it out in the straight-laced "Fracture" last year, utilizes the same no-twist plot principle. This is an undeniably energetic film, but too often has the viewer being able to guess what will happen from scene to scene.

Lane gives a marvelous performance as Jennifer Marsh. Widowed with an 8-year-old daughter, Annie (Perla Haney-Jardine), Marsh works the night shift, alongside her friend Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks), as a cop in a Cyber-crime division.

The events start to unfold when a Web site,, starts streaming live. The site features people in contraptions that could have been stolen from the set of "Saw," providing live video of the person's eventual bleeding, frying, or acidic doom. The gimmick is that the more viewers the site gets, the quicker the person dies, thus making the visitors accomplices to murder as well as the killer (Joseph Cross), who is revealed way too early to prolong the suspense.

The problem? The Web site is somehow untraceable, confirmed by the cyber unit's computer lingo that only one with a Ph.D. in computer technology could understand. But, as the killer's body count grows, it is not long before Griffin and Jennifer, who are closing in on the killer's identity, may become the next victims in front of the Web cam.

"Untraceable" tries to comment on our violence-induced culture and asks would you visit such a site? But then again, curiosity killed the cat, literally, as the first victim of the site is a cat, before the viral-video killer moves up the food chain.

Hoblit ("Primal Fear," "Hart's War") directs with style and some impressive shots that go wider, straying away from the typical jump-shot angle tricks.

The highly talented Diane Lane gives us an intrepid performance while Hanks is an admirable co-star.

Previously starring in "Fracture," Billy Burke makes an entrance later in the film as Detective Eric Box and does a meaningful job. On the opposite end, Cross overacts unnecessarily with a menacing blank stare, as if we forget he is the mastermind killer.

Is "Untraceable" unwatchable? No. If you miss it in the theatre and are looking for a decent thrill with a satisfying ending, "Untraceable" should show up on your radar as a rainy day rental.

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