Crude and dull-witted rather than truly surprising and unsettling, Untraceable refers to a website by a techno-savvy internet predator.
Starring Diane Lane, Billy Burke, Colin Hanks, Joseph Cross, and Mary Beth Hurt, this new melodrama is hardly a thrilling potboiler.
After Lane's FBI special agent Jennifer Marsh (single, divorced mom) investigations into on-line porn criminals with partner Griffin (Hanks) seem to result in routine arrests, the titular URL becomes something that tears into her existence.
The film by Gregory Hoblit (Fracture) soon becomes rather graphic as the webmaster quickly goes from offing a cat (which quickly may turn off some viewers) to an unhappy human captive on streaming live video. Two of his important ingredients in his Rube Goldberg-like devices include heat lamps and sulfuric acid.
The enticing part of the collaborated script has to do with the audience participation in logging on to the website to accelerate the torture of his captives. Those watching how a captive responds to the repugnant machinations may see how it is used again later as things get more formulaic, even absurd.
The sleaziness extends to how personal the serial killer manifests violence (or threats thereupon) for those to see. Key scenes set in the Portland, Oregon area are set on the Broadway Bridge which echoes the theme and helps Marsh in this cat-and-mouse game.
As well as the techno-babble comes across, the intensity projected by Lane who underscores the toll her dedication to her job take on her is undermined by the sogginess in the later reels. Jennifer's decisionmaking in this deadly cat-and-mouse struggle leads to some unconvincing set pieces.
The lensing and locations invite comparison to the gritty, unnerving Se7en with plenty of foreboding showering in the Pacific Northwest. Burke does his best as a local cop with a heart of gold, and Hurt as the mother who does her best to stay busy. Hanks is affable as the colleague who, like Jennifer, loses his on-line anonymity while finding new romance.
Ultimately, Untraceable is more like Saw than the aformentioned Brad Pitt/Morgan Freeman procedural into the "deadly sins". The motive of the killer whose identity is revealed too soon doesn't help make it all taut than plod. Even though the ending is distressfully rigged for viewer satisfaction.