Untraceable ** ½ (out of ****)

Directors: Gregory Hoblit
Writers: Robert Fyvolent, Mark R. Brinker and Allison Burnett
Cast: Diane Lane, Billy Burke, Colin Hanks, Joseph Cross, Perla Haney-Jardine, Mary Beth Hurt, and Peter Lewis
Rating: R (violence, torture)
Running Time: 100 min
Release Date: 1/25/2008

This film is a based on a terrible idea that could well happen. A computer savvy psycho attaches a victim to an engine of death. Streaming video of the process is posed on a website and the rate at which the cause of death is delivered to the victim is driven by the number of hits generated. This is the central plot element of Untraceable.

Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) is the head of the Portland, Oregon cybercrimes unit of the FBI. She is a widow with the young daughter. Her late husband was also in law enforcement and was killed in the line of duty. Her mother Stella (Mary Beth Hurt) lives with her and takes care of her daughter, Anne (Perla Haney-Jardine), when she is working at nights. So we are already seeing a hero and potential victims when the action is joined.

One evening while working with her colleague Special Agent Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks) in their office on retinue identity theft cybercrimes, the duo comes across a site named “Kill With Me” with first victim being a cat. Their investigation reveals that the site is untraceable by the FBI’s capability. But since the victim is only a cat it doesn’t get much priority. This changes soon when the next victim is a man who is hooked up to an IV drip. An anticoagulant is being introduced proportional to the hit rate. The FBI holds a press conference telling the public not to view the website or they will be accomplices in the crime. This only results in a surge in the hit rate and victim bleeds to death at the FBI watches helpless to do anything about it.

When the body of the victim is found in the trunk of a car parked in front of Agent Marsh’s house the hunter becomes the hunted. Portland police detective Eric Box (Billy Burke) teams up with the FBI in the investigation. As additional victims turn up on the “Kill With Me” site the team of Marsh and Box attempt to determine who the killer is and what do the victims have in common. Marsh suggests to her boss that the FBI enlist the aid of the NSA in tracking down the killer but this is rejected on the grounds that it is illegal to use that capability domestically.

Untraceable is a generally tight thriller with the usually amount of plot twists. The killer seems just a little more capable that seems credible. But this is typical for films of this type. It avoids going over the top as some films of the genre tend to do. In the end of course the pieces of the puzzle come together in the nick of time. Interestingly the film seems to blame its on audience for having the same psychological pathologies that the killer uses to enlist the public in his crimes. One person asks on the websites blog concerning the climactic scene, “Can I download this?”


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