Friday, January 25, 2008

Untraceable unwatchable

Grade: D
It had to happen.
The meeting of torture porn and tech-sploitation films. Like peanut butter and chocolate, Ernie and Bert …. you know, that whole thing.
Although with Untraceable, it’s really more like the un-Sesame Street combination of arsenic and hemlock. With the same sick taste and punch. A fate that doesn’t seem so bad when you spend several minutes watching a person turned to a skeleton with battery acid. This Internet-aided thriller is a few patches of witty dialogue and one Diane Lane away from being a complete server meltdown.
If this sounds like the sort of crime that usually pesters your local police force, it may mean that your town has lost its sicko. And you’ve given him to Portland, Oregon. That’s where an FBI agent (Diane Lane) on the Internet crimes beat has been tipped to a Web site called
As psychopaths go, this one sure has ambition. His web site has a slick little logo, and his computer expertise makes his Web site untraceable to those trying to track it. He starts by torturing and killing a cat online, but soon he’s upgrading to human beings. The setup has this sick little kick – the speed of the torture accelerates as more and more Internet users tune in to watch.
So there are plenty of ugly deaths by concrete, battery acid, and acid injection. The movie has the nightmare aspirations of the torture porn films like Saw, but it sets it against the morality and shock quotient of everyday normalcy. Of course when it comes down to it, the film talks out of both sides of its mouth. The killer will give a long pontification on the moral depravity of the Internet audiences that tune in. Yet the film is more than happy to engage in that sort of gore. This is less of an artistic statement than a lawyerly evasion. Please stop us before we do this terrible thing again.
Diane Lane is near the top of the list of middle-aged female performers who has never seen the roles that she deserves (Ashley Judd, make room). You know that unmarried forty-something career woman seeking satisfaction in her life? Lane, who has been playing wounded wives since I can remember, and she plays that person with such natural self-possession. Then again, Lane has a long history of dipping into schlock, and you kind of wonder if she enjoys it. If she enjoys Untraceable, then she’s the only one.

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