From the Jan. 25 Oregonian....
First, for my long-suffering fellow Portlanders, let's quickly rip off the Band-Aid:
I hate to disappoint the tourism board, but "Untraceable" is yet another mediocre-to-lame thriller shot in Portland. (See also: "Body of Evidence" and "The Hunted.") It makes the City of Roses look about as lovely as a brick: The movie was filmed here last February, and lit with an eye toward the slate-gray end of the color spectrum. Most of the time, it looks like it was shot in Detroit.
Even worse, "Untraceable" is a serial-killer thriller revolving around computer hacking. Why does Hollywood persist in thinking that watching people squint at monitors while muttering about "encryptions" is exciting? Other than "Wargames," "Sneakers" and "The Matrix," how many times has this actually been entertaining?
(Putting it another way: Were there a lot of thrillers made in the 1940s about crime-busting ham-radio operators?)
Anyway. "Untraceable" is ripped from the headlines of every police procedural on television, and stars Diane Lane as Mariska Hargitay's haircut and wardrobe. Lane plays an FBI cybercrime expert investigating a Web site called www.killwithme.com, which hooks up "Saw"-style murder machines to its stats meter. The more people visit the site, the closer a kitten and a series of tied-up shirtless men come to their grisly ends.
Working with a team that includes Colin Hanks, Lane furrows her brow and wonders: Can this webcam fiend be stopped?
The movie is competently directed by Gregory Hoblit -- who did much better work last year (with a much better script) in "Fracture" -- and the cast is fine, if bored. But "Untraceable" is also relentlessly grim and dull, and runs afoul of all the pitfalls you find in movies where people rely on computers to do their detecting:
- People clack on their keyboards while the screen performs actions that require a mouse.
- The screen makes lots of unnecessary extra noises when doing things like opening a picture.
- And Lane is saddled with looking pleased or intense while saying things like "I threw in a back-door trojan!" and "He's got to be running his own botnet!" and "Let's go after the originating ID!" and "It's a Web site…. It's extremely sophisticated -- like nothing we've seen before!" (Really? Was it animated in Flash or something?)
Thematically, the movie is hilariously schitzo. It's voyeuristic but blames the viewer for being voyeuristic. The cops grouse about the evils of "Net Neutrality" and decry the scumbags who post shock video. The killer, meanwhile, seems to blame the cops for the scumbags who post shock video; his/her performance-art mission statement, when finally uttered, is incoherent. The movie plays like a sub-moronic "Se7en" for the Facebook generation.
I also wonder if KPTV's Fox12 news team is kind of collectively kicking itself right now. They cooperated extensively with the production -- with their own logo and reporters appearing extensively onscreen. Their reward? They get called low-rated and desperate by cops, and their news chopper is a gleeful participant in some snuff news footage that figures heavily in the mystery. Also, if memory serves, one of their reporters (played by an actor) is kidnapped and threatened with being roasted alive by heat lamps, which is probably going to please anyone who's been the subject of a "Dirty Dining" report.
But hey: If you want to pay ten bucks plus concessions to hear Colin Hanks mention West Linn and Sellwood on a big screen, do I have a movie for you.
C-minus; 100 minutes; rated R for grisly violence and torture, and some language.
'Untraceable' (The Oregonian, Jan. 25, 2008)