Friday, May 23, 2008

Untraceable but not Irreplaceable

Untraceable just came out to DVD and I immediately threw it to the top of my Netflix queue. For my British readers let me explain. First, when I say "queue," I mean a list of movies, not a line you stand in. Second, when I say "Netflix," I'm referring to the best DVD rental company on Earth. Unfortunately, it's only availible in the States. Don't worry, though. You can still rent Untraceable from any of your local DVD rental stores such as Video City Video or some place you've got called Blockbuster. However once you track a copy down...don't bother renting it.

Diane Lane is the closest Hollywood's got to capturing the Kantian sublime. But seriously, after she got the Best Actress nomination I figured she'd start showing up in better flicks than Jumper, Must Love Dogs, and this cyber crime thriller. That being said, she does show up in these bad movies and always churns out a pretty decent performance. Diane Lane has always stood out to me but I don't know how many more Fierce People's I can watch.

One of the biggest problems with Untraceable is the huge number of completely forgettable actors who fill the roles. Granted, the roles are stereotypical crime thriller roles but none of these actors can seem to find a single way to make their characters stand out. You know you've got a problem you can't remember what the killer looked like 12 hours after watching the movie. I actually can't remember his face but I remember thinking that I was glad that they didn't cast Ben Foster. Ben Foster shows up in way too many movies and chews the scenery in each of them. Did you see Hostage? Exactly.

Alright, I'm going on a bit of a rant here but I swear I've got a point. Actors, if you get hired for a crappy role, put your own unique spin on it. Go through Samuel L. Jackson's filmography. You'll see plenty of bad roles but when you watch the movies--you end up remembering his performance.

Here are just two of the forgettable characters in Untraceable along with a picture of an actor who has played the same type of roles, only better.

You've got the tough type of police chief who gets in the way of the protagonists progress. This is his only purpose, to throw a wrench in the gears of progress. On the left, you see Peter "Unknown" Lewis and on the right you have J.K. Simmons playing J. Jonah Jameson. Alright, not the same role exactly but both are quasi-antagonists with some form of corporate power. Simmons always draws our attention to him. Check out his performances on TV's "Oz," "Law & Order," and "The Closer." Apparently, Lewis had a bit part in Forgetting Sarah Marshall but certainly don't remember him. I'm definitely not trying to say that he's a bad actor, I'm just saying that his performance in Untraceable was as stiff as cardboard and completely forgettable.

First off, I am extremely glad that Benjamin Bratt was nowhere near the shooting of this film. I wouldn't have cast him over Billy Burke, although he probably would have done a better job. The role of Detective Eric Box (hehe...) was practically written for Bratt. It's the same role he played in Miss Congeniality, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, Demolition Man, and his ninety-four episodes of "Law and Order." The only reason I wouldn't have cast him was because the second he showed up on screen, everyone and their dog would have known exactly who this Box was supposed to be. At least with Burke, we had about five minutes before we completely summed up his existence.

It was completely refreshing, however, to see James Tyler Ferguson back in action. Ferguson starred in a short-lived TV show on NBC called "The Class." Apparently, he's been performing in Shakespeare in the Park since the show ended and next up he's in the new Sanaa Lathan movie, Wonderful World. His role in this movie was small but affective. He definitely stood out more in his two minutes on screen than Billy "Don't Touch Me, I'm Pretending to be a Dead Fish" Burke did in the entire movie.

Let me just mention one of the high points of the film. The premise is awesome. Some guy kidnaps people and sets them up in some sort of "Going to Kill You Slowly" contraption. Then he streams live video of the victim on the internet on his website ""

As people click on the website, the victim is killed bit by bit. The more people that log on, the faster the guy is killed. One guy gets these heat lamps turned on and the temp. raises until he practically melts to death. Untraceable is like Saw meets a good way. The film is a little preachy and more than a little formulaic but the killer's elaborate setups are worth checking out. And Diane Lane is hot.
Not to end on a negative note but I feel that I have to mention that even the numerous FBI raid scenes are boring! How do you mess up a raid scene? Keep the camera tight on the action. Obligatory shot of the door being broke down from inside the house. Soldiers with guns drawn precisely swarm through out the rooms. A standoff between the gun nut hiding in the closet. Doesn't seem that hard, does it? Untraceable doesn't do any of this right. Even the raid scenes are ineffective.

I really don't mind a formulaic movie. I just want something interesting from a couple of the performances. I just want the formulaic parts to follow the formula their using. If you're going to do something I've seen before then do it right and put a little twist on it. I don't think I'm asking for much.


whitney said...

I think this movie sucked way more than you're letting on. It sucked the big one. And you know what I mean by the big one, don't you? (refrain from making Diane Lane-centered comebacks, please) said...

Diane Lane is a Goddess!! And speaking of God and God like things...have you seen the netflix BOX??? $99 one time fee to get it plus your regular monthly rental agreement gets you access to 10,000 netflix movies on-demand.

So...who never wants to leave the house this summer?

Keith said...

Is that for real? Shit! If you give me 99 bucks I can go to the store and buy you a 5 dollar S-Video cable that does the same thing. It's just outputting Netflix's already existing streaming library to a TV.


I mean, uh... I can give you a "Netflix Box" for, uhh... 85 dollars! Get in touch.

Jonny said...

I really hated Untraceable.

And I too am in love with Diane Lane. I've seen Unfaithful about 56 times.

Great point about Ben Foster. It seems like everyone I know thinks he's this terrific actor, but to me, he's so over-the-top in everything he does.

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