Movie News & Reviews

Serial killer tale is dull on arrival

Oh, Lord, why do I this to myself? Why do I subject myself to the awfulness of films that studios dump in the new year's winter months?

I should be in the woods right now, hibernating until spring. But no, I agreed to see movies like "Untraceable" because it's my job and my civic duty as a film critic to review movies, no matter how DOA they appear to be.

"Untraceable" is a serial killer movie -- you want me to go on? -- starring Diane Lane as a Portland FBI agent whose job consists of tracking down predators, criminals and all sort of freak folk on the Internet. When she gets hipped to a snuff Web site called Killwithme.com (which Sony has actually made into a real, working Web site, by the way), a site that kills its particular subjects as more people log on to watch, she investigates the authenticity and its whereabouts.

As more bodies pile up, she finds that the site is very real -- and the crime is happening in her own backyard.

"Untraceable" is the worst kind of serial killer movie, since it lacks the very thing people crave from these movies in the first place: suspense. Dullness covers this movie more than the dreary Pacific Northwest weather that takes up the scenery.

The script pretends to be savvy and meaningful by having the actors spout technological mumbo-jumbo every five minutes or so, occasionally having them go off on a monologue about Our Corrupt Society.

But the movie leaves you in such a blah state, you're barely freaked out when the killer (whose identity we learn way too early) finds elaborate, nasty ways to wipe out his victims on camera.

I don't know what's worse: another serial killer movie, another serial killer movie that wastes the talents of the exquisite Lane, or another serial killer movie that wastes the talents of the exquisite Lane and is directed by Gregory Hoblit.

You would think Hoblit would've taken some time off to figure out how he screwed up last year's "Fracture," a ridiculous courtroom thriller that was slightly salvaged by the engaging, scenery-chewing chemistry of its stars, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling.

Sadly, Hoblit doesn't even give Lane anyone exciting to play off, as she is surrounded by bland male actors (Billy Burke, Colin Hanks, Peter Lewis) who play their nondescript parts as if they had just gotten them hours before shooting.

Like nearly everybody I know (especially men, of course), I'll watch Diane Lane in anything. She's one of the few actresses in their 40s who can still exhibit mature poise and unfeigned beauty, even when a film like this has her playing a widowed, working-stiff single mom. (No matter how badly Hoblit lights her, making sure we catch the jackslapped-by-life lines in her face, she's still a dime -- curse that lucky Josh Brolin.)

Lane tries her best to add some gravitas to this high-tech police procedural, especially when it's her character that faces peril near the end. Needless to say, that's when the movie gets interesting. But by then, you may have forgotten half of what you just saw.

No wonder this movie is called "Untraceable": It evaporates from your mind as you're watching it.

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