‘The whole world wants to watch you die’
UNTRACEABLE Directed by Gregory Hoblit. Starring Diane Lane, Billy Burke, Colin Hanks, Mary Beth Hurt
18 cert, gen release, 100 min
A WHOLE week has passed since we’ve had a new thriller about a serial killer who devises brutal tortures to inflict on victims. In Untraceable, the villain goes online and attracts an audience of millions to observe the slow deaths of the people he abducts. His website is named killwithme. com because the more hits his site gets, the faster the victim dies.
“The whole world wants to watch you die, and they don’t even know you,” the killer leers at one of them. His first victim is a little kitten, and while we are spared the graphic detail, what is suggested is disturbing and disgusting. The psychopath then takes on some people his own size, setting up a different, elaborately sadistic demise for each of them.
The setting is perpetually rainswept Portland, Oregon. Diane Lane gets drenched as FBI cybercrimes specialist Jennifer Marsh, who’s on the case with a geeky colleague (Colin Hanks, son of Tom). But that’s the least of her worries as the online body count rises and her own life is endangered.
Lane, who’s rarely ever less than interesting onscreen, throws herself into the underwritten role of a stock movie investigator, a workaholic without a partner in her personal life. There is a hint of potential romance as Portland detective Eric Box (Billy Burke) joins in the hunt for the killer, but the movie can hardly wait to get back inside the killer’s implausibly equipped torture chamber (which, in line with genre formula, is in a basement).
Director Gregory Hoblit, whose father was an FBI agent, and his team of three writers earnestly attempt to pretend they are making an important statement, a cautionary tale about the abuse of technology in this information age. The voyeurs drawn to the killer’s site should not be called fans, Agent Marsh insists, but accomplices.
However, following a debased tradition of tabloid journalism, this nasty movie wants to have it both ways, saying: look at this, isn’t it shocking? As the camera gets up close on the torture victims and lingers to record their physical and psychological abuse, Untraceable’s veneer of moral outrage is exposed as hypocritical and exploitative.
CSI: Portland: Lane and Burke