Review: Untraceable

Now that the sadomasochistic horror genre is starting its final descent, it seems fitting it would cross over into a more mainstream screen offerings. "Untraceable" (IMDb listing) has some A/B-list pedigree playing around with the button-pushing toys of film making goons, so I guess you could call the picture the Miller High Life of forgettable, empty-calorie shock cinema. It's crud, but it's classy crud.

As an FBI cybercrime profiler, Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) spends her nights trapping pathetic internet criminals with her partner, Griffin (Colin Hanks). When a new snuff website opens for business, rewarding massive page views with murder, Jennifer is thrust into the case, trying to isolate the whereabouts of the killer as he racks up an intriguing roster of victims. With each gruesome execution committed online, the audience grows more impatient for the next thrill, leaving Jennifer little time to solve the case, which soon leads to her own family.

"Untraceable" isn't exactly a trendy "torture porn" thrill ride, but man, does it ever want to be. It's more of a sugar-free version of "Saw," with the gruesome bits softened a touch for the senior bargain matinee, and extensive internet shorthand and tech gobbledygook carefully spelled out so the keyboard-phobic won't drown in a sea of LOLs. That's right, Hollywood has finally made a film centered on agony that even a grandmother could love.

Of course, this is not to suggest "Untraceable" is an appetizing film. Try as she might, Diane Lane can't wince her way through the story, though her performance elevates the material as much as can be expected. This is far from stellar work, but Lane has a pleasing big-screen energy about her, and "Untraceable," with forgettable co-stars (Billy Burke?), benefits from her experience in front of the camera. She helps director Gregory Hoblit ("Primal Fear," "Fracture") sell the suspense of the script, which means that she spends the movie frequently wet, with a furrowed brow glued on her face. Hey, it works better than you might think.

After all, without Lane's participation the audience would be left with a colorless killer who's revealed 30 minutes into the film (thus removing the critical "mystery" portion of the experience), torture sequences that come off as "Fear Factor" leftovers, and the film's biggest guffaw: a thematic sledgehammer that points the insatiable demand for sickening violence at us, the casual viewer, stuffed into a film selling sickening violence for profit. Hollywood's quest for hilarious irony will never be sated.

I suppose the talent waltzed into "Untraceable" hungry for the chance to turn the tables on American sleaze; a golden opportunity to showcase the unpleasant aftertaste the freedom of internet media and expression provides. Too bad the producers chose this goofy premise for their soapbox. "Untraceable" is better left as a mediocre bottom-shelf DVD curiosity than a comment on society, no matter how many times Diane Lane showers in the picture.

Filmfodder Grade: C