Saturday, January 26, 2008

Untraceable, That's What You Are

It all started with Boris Karloff and those cheap thrillers he made in the '30s and '40s about some kind of criminal -- gangster, accidental killer, mad doctor, what have you -- who returns to exact vengeance on a group of random victims in picturesque ways.  Or maybe it was Agatha Christie with "Ten Little Indians" (among other, less PC titles) about random individuals being offed for their one connection.  Or maybe it goes back even earlier than that…whatever!  Enough of the Pauline Kael-esque background.  The whole thing is updated, with the killer streaming his crimes to an internet audience who can hurry death along just by logging on to his web site.
They all spawned Saw, and now Untraceable offers a somewhat more domesticated take on the mad revenge film.  There aren't as many deaths and though they get rather hard to watch, they hardly achieve Saw's level of surgical smut.  And, of course, Untraceable has one huge asset in Diane Lane, who I like to think of as the thinking straight man's sex symbol.  She delivers the usual warm, multi-layered performance, even if the material doesn't give her as much to work with as she had in Hollywoodland.  Gregory Hoblit directs as though he knows the difference between a TV episode and a movie, so there are some great tracking shots to help generate suspense.
But why, oh, why, does everybody have to come down with a case of the stupids to motivate the third act confrontation?  I'm not going to spoil anything, so I'll just marvel at the way Lane's seasoned FBI agent walks into the motel room where she's staying to avoid the serial killer, discovers someone's been in there and doesn't call for help!  How fracked is that, as they might say on Battlestar Galactica!
The film also has a very strange gay subtext, and not just because it co-stars studly Billy Burke and cuddle-worthy Colin Hanks.  An early suspect is a gay computer geek with a basement full of pirated porn about policemen, and he veritably trills at the thought of being arrested by Burke and his partner.  One of the victims gets lured into what looks like a blind date with the killer (it's really an ebay transaction gone horribly wrong, but I don't think guys who collect model trains or whatever this fellow's after flirt quite so vigorously).  And the killer lures another guy to his death by masquerading as a hot babe he met through an internet dating service. 
>Perhaps I'm ascribing more intent to a film that really only seems out to scare the audience, which this does pretty well.  The audience at my multiplex was small, but then it was the first show.  They were also very respectful.  It reminded me of the crowd when I saw Cloverfield last week, another scary picture with strange lapses of logic (like the world's longst-lasting camcorder battery).  It'll be interesting to see how Ms. Lane, who's somewhat older than the mean age considered bankable in Hollywood, does at the box office.


LCM said...

LCM: (smiling grandly) Darling, I saw nobody made a comment and I just felt bad. (nodding knowingly) Darling - you've had a nose hair sticking out - it's really long. (taking tweezers) PLUCK! (ignoring the screams) I'm putting this in the jar with the others, darling. And no - I won't try to auction them like I did that time with your short n' curlies.

Well I Just Didn't Make Much On That, Despite All The Hooplah

Glitter Queen said...

That wasn't hooplah. That was me screaming when the mimes started pulling it all out.