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Untraceable

Year: 2008
Studio: Sony
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Cast: Diane Lane, Colin Hanks, Joseph Cross, Billy Burke
Look at yourselves, the clever Hollywood screenwriter says, you're the evildoers. You're the perpetrators of this crime. Yes it's a valid point, but not in a thriller this ham-fisted.

It's either an 'issues' movie dressed up as a procedural chase drama or the other way round, and both come off half realised. The issues movie feels guilty about trying to entertain us, and the thriller takes so many obvious swipes blaming you for this whole mess you feel guilty for wanting to be entertained.

Even if you go to the fictional website from the movie (killwithme.com) and click the enter button that starts the horror in the film, you get a warning that it will harm innocent people. Clicking past that, the site gleefully tells you how many visitors had clicked ahead (89 percent when I did it) and asks 'where are your morals?'

It's a very interesting sociological tussle between a movie studio desperate for us to look at their marketing and then adopting the movie's standpoint in scolding us for doing so.

But strip away all that thesis-heavy material and you're left with a bland thriller that throws just enough tech-savviness in to not confuse Middle America. Diane Lane is an FBI cybercrime investigator, who sits up nights with her partner (Hanks) tracking and busting identity theft scams and other dodgy online dealings.

A website shows up with a very high concept hook. A victim is restrained in an anonymous basement, rigged up to a device or system that will slowly kill them the more people log on to the site, making the entire internet-connected public accomplices to murder.

For the heroine and her superiors, the conundrum is clear; how do you tell people not to look at a website? It's like telling people not to look up. Of course everybody looks and subsequent victims die in record time as the site spreads like wildfire.

Creative license abounds. It's never called into question how a website with a single blog post can have sixteen million visitors in a matter of weeks (in the real world News Ltd would have bought it for millions). Nor is the logistical difficulty involved in setting up such elaborate systems of torture, much less connecting them to website visitor numbers in some way.

To the movie's credit, it's not just a chase thriller about a random serial killer, and there's a story and a connection between the victims that's effectively rendered.

But nothing really stands out, there's nothing terribly cinematic, and in the shadow of torture porn and extreme gore the horror is pretty ineffective.

And of course, it gets personal.

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