Sony // 2008 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // May 15th, 2008
How do you stop a killer who can get to you virtually anywhere?
Perhaps a forty-dollar virus scan application would do the trick, huh?
In Untraceable, Diane Lane (Killshot) plays FBI cyber-detective Jennifer Marsh, a woman who keeps constant vigilance over the world wide web, seeking out all manner of miscreants who have made cyberspace their place for unseemly doings. While she typically nails online cons and predators, she's discovered something unusual when she stumbles across a disturbing site named KillWithMe?. Flanked by fellow agent Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks, King Kong, 2005), Det. Marsh is shocked to see the KillWithMe? site features real-time acts of torture and death, hastened in execution depending upon the number of visitors that log in to witness the victims' plights. Now Marsh must quickly track the site's origin and uncover the perpetrator behind it, but when she and Dowd become targets of the killer, life or death is only a mouse-click away. Watch the hit counter -- this sadistic site's gone viral in the worst sort of way.
As interesting as the premise might sound, Untraceable is only as exciting as an HTML 404 error. It's greatest miscoding is the manner in which it becomes immediately trapped within its own circular logic. That is, the picture is clearly intended to serve a harsh commentary on modern day society and the sick fascination many have for whatever might be served up online. Whether peering into merely embarrassing gaffes of this month's hot celebrity or daring to witness wartime atrocities filmed by a barbaric enemy, all are subject of high replay rates thanks to online photo and video destinations. And while the picture should be commended for holding up a mirror to this potentially misguided new millennium culture, it only succeeds in seeing itself within the reflection. As you watch Untraceable, you'll quickly see how it revels within its own graphic content, the killer's imaginative snares offering up pain, suffering, and death a la Saw or Hostel. Within short order, we discover the moralistic sermonizing the film was supposed to offer was merely a smokescreen for the filmmakers to sneak in their own kill film, perhaps hopeful of establishing a franchise of their own. At this point of realization -- when the viewer determines the picture doesn't practice what it preaches -- it becomes just a knock-off of the previously mentioned franchises that hit their mark in far more effective manner. Because it's always striving to make us ponder, "gee, this is just as freaky as Saw," the viewer is always acutely aware of the pitch job at hand. Even though Lane, Hanks, and the others deliver competent performances, the sum of all parts just makes for a bad logarithm that just doesn't add up and begs for immediate debugging.
New to Blu-ray, Untraceable has a clean and well-rendered look in its 1080p / AVC encoded transfer. Colors are deep and smooth, details crisp and clear, and black levels well managed in a way that preserves shadow detail. Yes, it's quite polished and well presented yet, like too many useless websites, it lacks any true "stickiness" that would make us want to linger to see more. On the audio side, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix delivers a surprisingly consistent soundstage that maintains some sort of ambient noises or musical score at all times. While there aren't any jarring effects that would task your sound system, the overall aural setting is decent. Extra features include an audio commentary from director Hoblit, who is joined by producer Hawk Koch and production designer Paul Eads. While this sort of trio should unleash an unending stream of compelling insights and anecdotes, this trio focuses on execution of the filmmaking process but hardly provide any insight into the source script and the various rewrites made that were deemed "improvements." A collection of four featurettes follow, each intended to reveal that which the commentators failed to impart. Tracking Untraceable is marketing fluff that offers 16 minutes of the usual back-slapping that would have us believe a truly competent production had occurred. The Personnel Files attempts to sell the actors and their characters to unsuspecting viewers while The Blueprint of Murder would like to convince us this is truly a film not based upon the Saw franchise. Anatomy of a Murder gives us time in the makeup trailer as we hear how the graphic death effects were achieved. A few Blu-ray trailers round out the standard extras. As a Blu-ray exclusive, Beyond the Cyber Bureau is a picture-in-picture presentation that offers much of the same marketing fluff that runs over the course of the film, if you choose to view it in this manner.
Sadly, Untraceable comes off like a venture-capital pitch job, the creator eager to convince the underwriter that this idea has real legs. Unfortunately, this one is hobbled from the outset, quickly discarding a ripe premise in deference to the usual gore gimmick that makes it look like nothing more than a "poser."
Guilty as charged.
Review content copyright © 2008 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio commentary
* "Tracking Untraceable"
* "The Personnel Files"
* "The Blueprint of Murder"
* "Anatomy of a Murder"
* Blu-ray Exclusive: "Beyond the Cyber Bureau"
* Official Site
* Original DVD Verdict Review