Director: Gregory Hoblit
Starring: Diane Lane, Billy Burke, Colin Hanks
Release date: January 25 (US). I watched this early last year and I did not want to clap eyes on it ever again, but it came out and that’s that. Will my original opinion alter? May contain incomprehensible FBI behaviour and spoilers…
You are sick. All of you. Sick. Sick – sick – sick – sick – sick – (you might want to go and brew up, this’ll go on for awhile) sick – sick – sick – sick – sick. And you, you’re sick as well. Yeh, you, it’s no good looking around all innocent doing that hand on chest ‘who me?’ thing… Sick. That’s the barbwire wrapped baseball bat Gregory Hoblit is beating us with in Untraceable. As one gloomy character points out; we are the murder weapon. Us. And we’re watching Hoblit’s movie which presents the unflinching depiction of animal and human torture and death, which is sick and we’re watching it, ergo we’re sick. He’s sick, I’m sick, you’re sick, we’re all sick… Why don’t you lot play a drinking game; every time I write the word ‘sick’ you’ve got to have a shot of advocaat. Right, bottle and glass in hand? Okay, go back to the start and begin again…
Gregory, seriously, I like you but fuck off. You show a kitten stuck in a glue trap slowly dying of starvation. I kept watching because I expected the cute fluffy bundle’s life to be spared, but no, Lulu the cat expires (and Cat-Hater General Kloipy rejoices) – and the psycho web killer moves on to humans. Did we need to see an adorable kitten being tortured at all, Gregory? Yeh, I know little Lulu is a piece (albeit small) in the nauseating jigsaw, but really? When all’s said and done you could’ve moved straight on to people. Ah-hah! Greg got me, he got me good. See, I don’t want to witness an animal being hurt but I’m quite happy for him to start slaughtering humans, all for my entertainment. I fell right into Greg’s glue trap.
Y’know, it’s a shame about Untraceable. For 30 or so minutes it develops fairly well. But for a movie lecturing us on our own inhumanity toward the suffering of others – to then show said suffering in a variety of blood streaming, skin blistering, flesh peeling cruelty is a bit on the hypocritical side. I see where Mr. Hoblit is coming from; it’s incredible and saddening how quickly jokes appear – say, online – after a harrowing loss of life. And it’s this despicable indifference to another person’s distress he wants to address. Hoblit is full of rage, the film seethes with it.
Anyway, for me, it’s when the FBI get too close and the killer makes it personal, the movie’s sewage pipe bursts. The website, live streaming, is called killwithme.com. The cyber crimes division of the FBI is having a hard time tracing the location and when they close the ISP down, it jumps to a new one. Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) and Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks) are on the case but they’re hampered by boss Brooks (Peter Lewis), a character verging on fumbletrumpery. For example, it is quite clear that victims die faster depending on the number of hits the site gets. Got it? The more hits the quicker they die. Yeh? So, you don’t want to attract more viewers than there is online already. Okay? Brooks, in his infinite wisdom decides to hold a press conference while the current victim is still being roasted alive on monitors worldwide. Marsh, quite logically, asks him not to go public as it may boost the site’s viewing figures. Brooks nods a bit, seems quite amenable to the idea then goes ‘bleh’ and gives the press conference because he’s got “no choice”. Clearly, mate, you have got a choice.
Wouldn’t you fuckin know it, the hits increase rapidly and the victim is fried by multiple sun lamps. Here’s the correct response; “You could be right. I’ll hold off going public for now, let’s see if we can trace this location…” What the fuck are the writers doing? Seriously? “How do we get past this hump in the plot? No one in their right mind would hold a press conference while that poor bloke’s baking…” – “Oh, just have Brooks say he’s got ‘no choice’. That takes care of it.” No it fuckin doesn’t take care of it. I’m tired of hearing that fuckin ‘no choice’ line in films just because a bunch of twat hats can’t work around a script problem. Call yourselves fuckin writers? Fuck off with yer no choice.
The killer, as in most of these kinda flicks, is rather too in the know. He is able to set up the killings, complete with all the stuff he needs for his elaborate torture devices, with relative speed and ease. I did like his method of infiltration into Marsh’s home, a downloaded game he sent to her daughter Annie (Perla Haney-Jardine) spiked with a ‘Trojan’ bug to ransack Marsh’s computer files. But from here we go to extremes…
All power to Marsh’s car goes off while she’s driving along, right. She gets her cell phone out… oh no, that’s dead too. She exits the car and makes a call to Detective Nostradamus “This is bad” Box (Billy Burke) from an emergency phone just a short distance from where she has stalled. Then the power comes back on in her car. Now, given that the killer has spoken to her in the vehicle (via the in-car computer… yeh, I know…) and clearly has control of her car (and cell), you would expect an FBI agent to be extra vigilant, maybe even stay where she is by the phone, with a clear field of view around her and wait for Box and his cops to show up. No. Marsh approaches the vehicle, gives it a cursory inspection, doesn’t look under it, doesn’t open the rear passenger door, doesn’t open the boot… all we get is her woozy POV of the ‘empty’ back seat. That’s good enough for FBI agent Marsh, she gets back in. This is utter, utter insulting tripe.
Of course, it didn’t need to go this far, not if Griffin had earlier stopped being coy on the phone to Marsh. He intimates he’s got a lead. But he doesn’t tell her, he wants to ‘check something’ first. Tell you what, cockwomble, you’re an FBI agent, you’re on the trail of a serial killer and you don’t know when he’s going to strike next. Here’s a radical idea; give Marsh what you’ve got, she can get the whole of FBI operations to ‘check’ your ‘something’ and presumably all of you will arrive at the same connection. Naturally, it is Griffin who gets snatched next because, as Marsh notes, he was onto the killer. That’s a hell of a job by the psycho; he’s damn near omnipotent. Evidently, he’s hacked Marsh’s cell phone; but how? It’s a typical filmic shortcut, show the killer being dead clever with technology and that’s all the answer you need. Sure, he gained access to her home computer and all her files, but at that point the fuzz didn’t have a lead. Now they do, and being aware of his technical prowess I’m sure they would be more careful with new info, assume he may have found a way to listen in. Nay, the cyber crimes division of the FBI is apparently not so far removed from the Keystone Cops. But here’s the thing, right; knowing he’s fucked, Griffin blinks a cryptic clue in Morse code to the watching FBI team – ‘our suicide’. Clever boy, eh. Except don’t forget, Griffin has been snatched because he’s onto a suspect… Why didn’t he blink said suspect’s name then?
The killer is revealed halfway through the movie. Sometimes that can work, it doesn’t here. We should have found out this guy’s identity along with the investigation. He is played by Joseph Cross (so promising in Desperate Measures) in a one-note performance. There are comparisons to Seven; I recall the jolt of seeing ‘John Doe’ turn himself in with half an hour still to run, ‘what the hell is this guy’s game…?’ But Untraceable just wants to keep bashing human nature. Even the owner of Lulu the kitten, we are told, wants the cat’s collar back because it cost a fair few dollars. Probably the most pertinent detail are the chat room comments scrolling down the screen alongside the live feed. Bloggers are shown to be, under the shield of anonymity, a nasty, spite-filled bunch. Not far off the mark is it, particularly when you read about the real stories… like when a troubled teenager commits suicide. A Facebook page is set up in memoriam, but then the page is hijacked by the dregs of society posting vile slurs against a victim they never met. Most of them only see day-to-day horror on a screen; they associate a screen with make-believe. Screen = entertainment. I shouldn’t be making excuses for these malignant fucks.
Performances are adequate. Lane does okay, but it must have been like wading through a cesspit every day on set. I did enjoy the final image of Marsh, holding her police badge up to the webcam for all the internet nerds to see as the viewing numbers tail off. Hanks tries to lighten the tone; Burke looks and sounds bored. Some of the lighting FX I liked but the picture retains a grim colour tone throughout (it makes Lane look positively ill), always wet or raining; it’s deliberately ugly. There’s some nice framing though – it’s what I expect of Hoblit, technically. The cinematographer is Anastas Michos.
Listen, Greg, I feel your pain – but I do not want to watch it. Ever again.
Trailer (but watching it means you’re sick): http://tinyurl.com/24wk6sp
No question about it. Rude Gorilla.
ThereWolf, July 2012