Criminal Behavior

Diane Lane should have known better to take part in formulaic crime crap like this

Diane Lane's mother-in-law is Barbra Streisand. Other than that, she's a fine actress, and I have nothing bad to say about her.

So I can't see why she'd appear in Untraceable, a mediocre film that marks the opening of "dog season," the time of year when Hollywood studios dump their unwanted garbage on the screens of America's movie theaters.

Untraceable is one of those formula films that was conceived when somebody in Southern California leapt up and shouted, "I've got a great idea for a movie ... what if someone was showing murders on live, streaming video!" From there, it goes on, with the writer-manqué saying, "And, hey, why does the FBI agent have to be a man?" And then typing starts, and, completely out of ideas, our poor scribe starts killing partners and planning the inevitable scene in which the murderer has captured the star, and a brutal fight for life and, yes, for truth ensues.

So if you want to see that movie (and keep in mind that you have seen it, or some clone of it, many, many times on Cinemax, only this version has less lesbianism), then go ahead and see Untraceable. I mean, it's not like you'll be killing an old-growth forest or falsely accusing someone of rape or something. It's no big deal.

Really, the blame doesn't lie with the audience; it lies with the people who created this film. Director Gregory Hoblit made the inexcusable Fallen a few years back, and has been hovering on the periphery of anonymity since then. But he's only one man, so how much damage could he do?

What's really stunning is how many people it took to write Untraceable: Robert Fyvolent, Mark Brinker and Allison Burnett are all listed as writers. Of them, only Ms. Burnett has prior credits, including the megahit Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight. Strangely, she was not involved in either Bloodfist or Bloodfist II, nor in Bloodfist numbers IV through VIII, nor the made-for-TV Bloodfist 2050, all of which, horrifyingly, are available on DVD.

So with three people at work, including a scribe from the acclaimed Bloodfist series, this is the plot that was produced: FBI agent Jennifer Marsh works in the cyber-crimes division. "Cyber-crimes" is actually just a sexy way of saying that she sits in front of a computer all day, and if the script demands it, she can use terms like "php" and "bot-net."

Sadly, her husband, also an FBI agent, died due to an overdose of bullets to the abdomen. This left poor agent Marsh the task of raising her preternaturally cute daughter. Thus, she is A Sympathetic Character.

One day, she discovers a Web site that kills people. I know what you're thinking: Web sites don't kill people; people kill people. You're right, because this is how the Web site works: The more people who view the site, the faster the victim dies. It's not so much the sort of thing a serial killer would think up, as the sort of thing a scriptwriter would think up, but still, it's a plot point.

So agent Marsh and her partner, agent Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks, who proves that capitalist economies are truly based on meritocratic competition, since he's so handsome and talented, and also his father is Tom Hanks) spend their days watching people die, and their nights hunting for the killer.

Until! The hunter! Becomes! The hunted!


Also, there's a love interest included in the form of police Det. Eric Box (Billy Burke). He knew Marsh's husband, who, it turns out, was a good man. A very good man. Moment of silence.

I think they had to write in the police-detective part because there was no way that someone as hot as Diane Lane could fall in love with someone as nerdly as Colin Hanks.

Also, and this should be noted, Diane Lane, who is in her 40s, looks like someone who is in her 40s, which is to say that, whatever plastic surgery she may or may not have had, she appears to have aged naturally, which is far more pleasant than carving one's face into something that looks like a Hello Kitty doll. So kudos to Diane Lane for going that way.

Also, she's been nominated for virtually every acting award, and she's won just about none of them, which is probably due to the fact that she's talented, and therefore not Halle Berry. But still, in spite of all the good work she's done for the thespian arts and the preservation of human faces, she's made a horrible choice here, and even Diane Lane can't produce a credible scene when she's got nothing to work with. So when she meets her new partner, of course she has to yell at him and throw a fit, but then she realizes that, hey, he's a helluva cop, and, yes, a helluva man. And as she's going through the motions in these scenes, you can just barely see her rolling her eyes, and checking her watch, and hoping that very soon this will be over, and her agent will call with a role in the new Adrian Lyne film, and everything will be OK.

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