“Untraceable” – Susan Granger reviews

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There’s a serial killer on the loose in rain-drenched Portland, Oregon, a predator who tortures his prey on-camera, ramping the grisly, graphic violence with every gawker who clicks on his website to observe what’s happening. A counter reveals the accelerating number of hits as each new agony is unveiled.

One woman is hung, upside-down, from the ceiling and gradually lowered over sharp, rotating blades. A man is trapped inside a tank of water into which sulfuric acid is slowly dropped. When there’s a predetermined amount of Internet voyeurs, the victim – animal or human – is killed in front of millions of viewers.

FBI Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) is a struggling, widowed single mother working in the cybercrimes division, along with her nerdy young partner, Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks). Marsh is horrified by the streaming videos on killwithme.com, but this tech-savvy psychopath is virtually untraceable. And when she finally realizes that the anonymous stalker is striking too close to home, she gets help from her supportive mother (Mary Beth Hurt) and a Portland police detective, Eric Box (Billy Burke).

Written by Robert Fyvolent, Mark R. Brinker and Alison Burnett, directed by Gregory Hoblit (“Fracture,” “Primal Fear”) and photographed by Anastas Michos, it’s a formulaic, melodramatic, ultimately improbable cyber-thriller.

Don’t blame the actors. Diane Lane is convincingly conflicted, torn between work and family, and Colin Hanks – Tom’s son – acquits himself admirably, looking for love in cyberspace.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Untraceable” is a geeky, gruesome, repugnant 3. The moral – we’re told – is that the acting of choosing to watch makes us accessories to the crime; without an audience, presumably, there would be no murder. And without an audience, this disturbing police procedural should move quickly to the video store.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.