Wednesday, January 23, 2008

DNfromMN - Movie Review - Untraceable

Release Date: 1/25/08

There’s a great quote in this movie that I can’t quite capture completely. And it makes me think it was the only thing remaining from the original script. It’s a comment about our desire to see something horrible happen to people, people we don’t even know. This is a movie about the consequences of voyeurism, yet it’s as voyeuristic as any SAW or HOSTEL movie. So was the script punched up in notes that there wasn’t enough blood? I don’t know. Honestly, as a January-released horror movie, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it was sitting on the shelf for a few years. (Can you tell yet that I’m not totally thrilled with this movie?)

The movie in a paragraph: Diane Lane and Colin Hanks are cyber-crimes FBI agents tipped on the website It starts out with kitten murder, and then graduates to people. The more people watch online, the faster someone dies. Diane’s character is determined to stop this.

UNTRACEABLE is directed by Gregory Hoblit, who has directed some great popcorn movies: FREQUENCY with Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel, and FALLEN with Denzel Washington. So my low expectations were raised a little, at the very least I’d be entertained. I would say that I was mildly entertained, but also frustrated. It’s such a great story idea, and the intention of the screenwriters was clear. It just couldn’t decide if it wanted to make us self-reflect, or to enjoy a thriller. Something of note: for a thriller, it wasn’t particularly tense – I never had that feeling of urge to scream “Don’t go into that house!”.

In an early scene, Diane gets stuck in a traffic jam due to accident gawker slowdown (thank you OnStar product placement). We’re predisposed to doing something when we’re told we can’t or shouldn’t, right? So what’s that say? The movie shouldn’t reward that behavior, but it does. There are some very gruesome deaths in this movie, particularly skin related (a giant blistery sunburn, vat of acid, etc.). I think by showing it, it negates any message this movie might have had. It encourages the SAW-goers, and the HOSTEL-goers to see it. That’s what was so frustrating with this movie; they went for the commercial aspects instead of the message. I wonder if that’s why Diane Lane slept through her performance (she’s not bad, just not particularly passionate).

Honestly, this movie comes out at an interesting time in our culture. As we watch Britney, Lindsay, Brad Renfro and Heath melt down; as TMZ’s photographers get their cameras in as close as they can to show Heath’s body being transported to the M.E.’s slab: What is our part in their misery? Are we accelerating the self-destruct sequence? Are we encouraging the paparazzi to go in for the kill shot with our demand for more detailed photos?

The quote I mentioned in my opening referenced the Daniel Pearl beheading video. I remembered making the decision to watch it; it took me a few days before I did. And I stopped it immediately after starting it, maybe 2-3 seconds into it. I couldn’t do it. I wanted to know what happened to this man, I wanted to try and understand it, to learn from it, but I knew that by watching it, I was giving it an audience.

Sorry to get all serious, I know it’s a gossip site, but we have to acknowledge how our participation in celebrity lives changes them. That’s one of the reasons why I like this site better than most others. As snarky as Ent or any of us gets, there are always supportive comments that show up. When Ent writes anonymous letters to celebrities or their families offering to help or an intervention, I know that beneath the sarcasm there’s hope and heart.

So what is UNTRACEABLE worth? It’s entertaining in that it’s a good story mostly well told, so that’s worth seeing. If I’d seen it in the second run theater or on DVD, I wouldn’t be upset with my $4.00 being spent. If I’d paid full price and popcorn, I’d be frustrated that it half-assed two movies. It couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a message movie addressing our voyeuristic natures, or the slasher movie that lets us get out our emotions. So it’s worth $4.00 to me. To help me rethink my behaviors, I thank the filmmakers, but will it make me change my behaviors… probably not – I’m too addicted to gossip porn.

16 comments: said...


So are you saying that every time we read an ENT post, a kitten dies? ;-)

I've never been a big fan of the horror genre - "horror" meaning the gruesome death Saw-type movies. Based on your review, I might just skip this one.

Thanks for all you do.

Rare Avis said...

dnfrommn; I really enjoy your writing style and your insights.

YahMoBThere said...

Great review, DN! Thanks for writing it.

I'm another one who didn't watch the Daniel Pearl video, nor did I watch the video's of them hauling out the body of H.L. or the crowds milling about outside his apartment.

It's said that people became desensitized to war during the 60's when it came into their homes every day on the nightly news. I believe that, so I also believe we've become desensitized to a number of things that we see over and over again on television, in movies and video games, etc.

I love Diane Lane, but it sounds like this isn't my type of movie.

tigereye said...

great review. i liked all the serious stuff..because it is so true.
I agree w/ twisted as well, I think we do become desensitized.

I was just scrolling thru some gossip sites and BAM was the photo of Heath Ledger on the stretcher. Honestly, I dont want to see that, it makes the entire situation even more disturbing to me.

I've thought this movie was 'eh..' from the first preview. I wish Diane Lane would make more good movies! I like her!

Anonymous said...

Thanks gals/guys. I've been a little anxious since I sent this in to Ent. For some reason it all just sort of came at once, not sure where it came from, and then spew.. out it came.

I'm glad I got a little something out of it, but I opted for this instead of U2:3D (because I'm willing to pay for U2:3D, and wasn't so willing to pay for this one based on previews).

brenda: no kittens dying on Ent's watch that I've seen.

tiger: yeah, I pulled up TMZ on accident and saw a blurry still, but kept on moving. Needless to say, I'm done w/ TMZ.

twist: that's an interesting theory. I can see how it would affect us.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the previews to this movie consider it more of a psychological thriller than a horror movie.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to see 24/7 live coverage of celeb trainwrecks. It's ridiculous and I can't understand how these reporters can humiliate themselves with all those embarassingly frivolous questions.

I never buy the magazines and I always flip the channel. I don't need to see 9,000 photos of Brit sucking on a frappucino. It sickens me to see packs of paparazzi following celebs around all the time and hollering stupid shit to make them look. Who the hell is financing this? They need to put in the stocks in the public square and pelted with rotten fruit until they apologize.

Gossip has been around forever, and is necessary to society. The paparazzi sucks and needs to be brought down. Get your torches and pitchforks, people, and meet me outside of Brit's place after sundown tonight.

Zuzu Petals said...

They kill a kitten in the movie? That's it, I'm out.

Kitty said...

I wanted to try and understand it, to learn from it

Jaaaay-zus, Ent, the guy was BEHEADED. What is there to understand, to learn?


Anonymous said...

kitty, that was me, not Ent. And I guess I thought if I saw it, I could a) believe it actually happened, and b) maybe I could understand why it was done. Thankfully I had a change of heart, and just realized it was fanatacism.

zuzu - it's kind of a tortured starvation. The killer catches it in a glue trap as it goes for a saucer of milk. And lets the poor thing try and struggle and stare at that milk. who thinks of this kind of thing, seriously?

ablake said...

Well done dnfrommn. I think it may boil down to our culture consisting of folks who get a charge out of seeing bad things happen to others, if for no other reason than to feel superior/better/luckier than the one it happened to.
Maybe that's too simplistic.

I couldn't watch the Pearl video, either.

Eireman said...

sweater that concept is not too simplistic, it's been around forever. Schadenfreude. It means basically enjoying others' misery, but more. I'm sure there's defintions on the web, look it up. I really think that's what's up with the surge of nasty untrue gossip sites on the net the last few years. (Since 9/11 maybe?) People just up for trashing everyone, everything they know nothing about. Envy, insecurity, just malicious doesn't even begin to cover it - garbage spewed anonymously towards "public figures".

ablake said...

Oh sure, also the more famous they are the more people DO want to tear them down. You nailed it with envy, I think. Such as the other cliches that have been around forever:) Grass is always greener, glass houses, karma etc.

Then again, fame really doesn't have everythng to do with it. Just turn on your local news or pick up the paper. "If it bleeds, it leads". I bet if there were such a thing as a 'happy' channel full of nothing but positive stories, it would go off the air in less than a week due to lack of viewers;)

Unknown said...

dnfrommn, I love your writing style - it's very genuine and really makes us think. I agree with you on the gore movies, I've never been able to watch them so I won't be watching Untraceable. I'd much rather see a sweet funny movie like "Juno." I know what you mean about being frustrated about spending an arm and a leg on a movie and then have it turn out to be crap.
Keep up the great articles! :-)

Zuzu Petals said...

Tortured starvation and a glue trap? That's disgusting. Thanks for the heads up. Don't these writers know this will only give sick fucks ideas?

Dick Insideu said...

Josh Brolin beats Diane Lane
11:36 PM


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