Combining the inventive death traps from “Saw” with a healthy dose of social commentary, “Untraceable” is an odd little thriller about cyber-crime and revenge.
Diane Lane Plays an FBI Agent in “Untraceable”
Diane Lane (“Must Love Dogs”) is Jennifer Marsh, an FBI agent who works in the cyber-crime division. The widowed mother of one daughter, Marsh works the night shift so she can take her daughter to school and spend more time with her in the afternoons.
Typically, Marsh investigates and traps crooks that steal bank account numbers and run illegal websites, but one day, she’s asked to investigate a site with the provocative name “Kill With Me?”
At first, that website only contains live streaming footage of a kitten that’s been caught in a glue trap. Though it appears that the cat was slowly tortured for the benefit of anyone willing to log into the site, Marsh’s bosses aren’t willing to do anything about it.
The Webmaster Ups the Ante
Marsh soon learns that the kitten footage simply was a dry run. Within a day, the website features a new victim, a middle-aged man hooked into a bank of complicated medical equipment. Scrolling text on the screen boasts that the more people that watch, the faster this man will die from the medications being fed into his system.
Due to the viral nature of the Internet, it isn’t long before this unfortunate victim dies from this horrific torture. Marsh and her co-workers have to track the culprit down before he strikes again.
“Untraceable”: More Social Commentary than Thriller
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word “schadenfreude” means “Pleasure derived from the misfortune of others,” which explains the popularity of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and online websites where people post sick and violent clips.
The villain in “Untraceable” takes schadenfreude to whole new level by making viewers active participants in the torture. Instead of merely observing, going to the “Kill With Me?” website makes an Internet surfer an accomplice to murder.
A Weathered Diane Lane Leads the Cast of “Untraceable”
Looking more weathered than ever before, Diane Lane throws herself into the role of a cyber-cop. Lane’s character starts off confident in her online tracking abilities, but this new predator pushes her to her limits and beyond and proves to be a slippery character to catch.
Taking a role that used to be played by comedian Dennis Miller in movies like these, Colin Hanks also turns in a solid performance as Griffin Dowd, a fellow agent who’s even more of a techno-nerd than Marsh is. Hanks also makes the character more likable than Miller ever could.
The Bottom Line: “Saw” Missing Some Teeth
As a thriller, “Untraceable” lacks the bite of films such as “Saw,” especially when the social commentary gets in way of the story.
“Untraceable,” rated “R” for some prolonged sequences of strong gruesome violence and language, opens nationwide on Friday, January 25.