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With a very creepy premise about a serial killer using the Internet to kill his victims, Untraceable mostly delivers the chills, despite its conventionalities.


I say ''creepy'' because Untraceable's theory could actually be a reality. The possibility of a tech-savvy psycho setting up a Web site that displays graphic murders could happen, with the fate of each of the tormented captives left in the hands of the public: The more hits the site gets, the faster the victims die--and, in the case of Untraceable, die in very gruesome ways. Of course, Untraceable also gives us a peek at the good guys--the FBI division that is dedicated to investigating and prosecuting cybercriminals. Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) is one such Internet expert, who, along with her co-worker (Colin Hanks), is stymied by's untraceablity. But soon the movie turns predictable, as the cat-and-mouse game gets personal, and Marsh must race against the clock to stop the madman.


Lane has certainly looked better in her past movies. For obvious effect, they've made Agent Marsh rather worn-down, with dark circles under her eyes and very little makeup, as she sits in front of the computer hunting the bad guys all night on the late shift. The fact that she's also a widow, having lost her cop husband to the job, and caregiver to her young daughter doesn't help the woman get anymore rest. Then when the crap starts hitting the fan, and people close to Marsh get hurt, the actress really shows the pain on her already haggard face. Marsh even admits, "I do a lot of things well, but I don't lose people well." It's a standard tough-FBI-agent role, and Lane is very capable at it. Supporting her is Hanks (Orange County), as the resident comic relief (what little of it there is), as well as Billy Burke (Fracture), the local cop trying to help Marsh catch the psycho Internet killer. As for the killer himself, the actor who portrays him (and I won't give it away) is very effective in the role.


There are a couple of other things Untraceable has going for it besides the chilling premise: director Gregory Hoblit, who knows his way around a crime thriller, having directed gems such as Primal Fear and Fracture, and the dank Portland, Oregon, locale. Hoblit creates just the right amount of tension and dread as the clock ticks down and the race nears its end, but something about an overcast, rainy environ just lends itself to more doom and gloom, doesn't it? Of course, there are also the torture scenes, which add a certain level of Hostel-like horror. What Untraceable lacks is a compelling narrative. The bevy of writers involved (never the best of signs) tend to throw in too many conventional thriller plot points--like the red herrings on who the killer is before he's revealed and explaining why the killer is doing what he's doing. All these things dilute the film's initial potential. Still, let's just hope this doesn't spawn real-life copycats.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.