Reviewed By Lybarger
Posted 01/25/08 16:57:17

"It’s not worth tracking down."
1 stars (Total Crap)

‘Untraceable’ is a thriller about computers that was probably written by one. Yes, Robert Fyvolent, Mark R. Brinker and Allison Burnett are credited with assembling the rote pages. But director Gregory Hoblit has helmed the film with all the passion of a robot.

Oscar-nominated actress Diane Lane attempts put a pulse on the proceedings, but there’s only so much she can do with material that seems less like story and more like a template.

Lane plays Jennifer Marsh, an FBI agent who specializes in busting criminals who plague people online. Normally, she goes after hackers who relieve victims of their cash, but her new quarry is a killer who posts live videos of his victims, one of which is a cat, as they are killed in techniques that are as complicated as they are painful.

The more hits his site receives, the faster the victim dies. Jennifer and her fellow crime fighters are hamstrung because the killer can restart the site immediately after it’s shut down. He can also conceal his identity, making it difficult to locate him even though he’s operating in the same city, Portland, Ore., as Jennifer and her fellow agents.

Actually, without a degree in criminology or IT, you could probably solve this case faster than this bunch. Everything in “Untraceable” with the regularity of a reel change.

Victims die in squarely predictable time, so you can leave the theater for extended periods without losing track of the proceedings. When you see the camera lingering on a object like a garden tiller, it’s a safe bet the object will be important later.

It might have been easier to care if the people involved were interesting. Sadly, they’re not.

When we eventually discover who the killer is and what his motives are, it seems also incidental because neither the perpetrator nor his pursuers are fleshed out. We have the diligent Marsh teaming with the nerdy Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks) and a studly cop named Eric Box (Billy Burke). Even the dull, whiny killer isn’t interesting enough to keep the film going. When his motivation is revealed, all interest is long gone.

While a Doze-a-tron 3000 churned out the script, it’s a shame this little cyborg didn’t know much about its fellow computers. It’s difficult to believe that a security conscious woman like Marsh would let her daughter download a random video game on her home console.

Hoblit, who helmed the far more engrossing “Primal Fear,” handles his current assignment as if he’s warming his chair in a dead end IT job. “Untraceable,” despite actually being shot in Portland, is visually drab and moves at the pace of a distracted snail.

It doesn’t help that Hoblit and the Doze-a-tron 3000 have burdened the film with a sophomoric commentary on voyeurism and media manipulation. The filmmakers condemn how new outlets sensationalize killings while treating viewers to a series of prolonged grizzly deaths to gaze upon.

A more capable group of filmmakers could have done something really interesting with this concept by pulling the audience into the characters’ blood lust. Sir Alfred Hitchcock, for example, did a great job of making viewers complicit in his grim visions. The Doze-a-tron 3000, however, isn’t willing to challenge viewers and instead places a firewall of boredom between them and the film.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.