A review of “Untraceable” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: **

Rating: R for language, violence and disturbing images

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes




          I fall somewhere between disturbed and offended by this gruesome techno-thriller that speaks far more to the disquieting roots of “Se7en” than to the sinister superhighway of “The Net”.

          Diane Lane pays her dues as FBI Cyber Crimes Agent Jennifer Marsh, a struggling single mom who routinely busts hackers specializing in high-end tech and low-end porn. Exploited servers, black hole IPs and mirrored botnets are all in a day’s work for this frazzled professional femme.

          Things take a nasty turn when Marsh and dogged co-worker Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks) uncover KillWithMe.com, complete with live streaming video of a kitten tortured to death by starvation. And it doesn’t stop there: the sicko’s next victim is seen bound and shackled with the website’s name carved on his chest. Each hit on the site ups a super dose of anti-coagulant, virtually assuring a fatal bleed-out as online gawkers clamor for their gory fix.

          Marsh and Dowd rush to dismantle the sophisticated and seemingly untraceable site while the perpetrator invites the whole world to help him execute more unwitting prey in unspeakable fashion.

          “Untraceable” unsettles on so many levels, most notably the aura of reality that pervades the killer’s ability to manipulate the internet and hack into confidential files to suit his deadly needs. And squirm-worthy cyber-rubbernecking, the guilty but irresistible urge to tap into pain and suffering at another’s expense. Too close to home for the average reality TV junkie.

          Gregory Hoblit (“Fracture”) knows how to craft a solid thriller with the help of moody washed-out colors of rainy Portland, Oregon and a steady beat of palpable dread. Lane plays it smart until the last act, pulling an uncharacteristically stupid and risky move that places her in harm’s way as dictated by the strictures of a conventional plotline.

          The killer’s motivations are crystal clear, cloaked in psychological hurts and social commentary on online jurisdiction and a limitless ebb and flow of dramatic and potentially harmful web exchanges.

          When it’s all said and done “Untraceable” hits its mark with unforgettable visuals laden with potential for undesirable nightmares. Life is too short for long-term exposure to relentless agony and distress, even in the guise of entertainment.