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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Gregory Hoblit|
scr Robert Fyvolent, Mark R Brinker, Allison Burnett
with Diane Lane, Billy Burke, Colin Hanks, Joseph Cross, Mary Beth Hurt, Peter Lewis, Perla Haney-Jardine, Tyrone Giordano, Tim De Zarn, Chris Cousins, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Brynn Baron
release US 25.Jan.08, UK 29.Feb.08
08/US Universal 1h41
Search the premises: Lane and Burke
Even though this film strains to be another Silence of the Lambs (tormented heroine chases nasty killer), it's still oddly involving, mainly because Lane delivers a performance that's far more robust than the plot.
FBI Agent Jennifer Marsh (Lane) chases internet crooks with her partner (Hanks). Most are computer geeks, but a new one is torturing and killing based on how many people visit his website, which happens to be based right in their town, Portland, Oregon. They team up with a local detective (Burke) on the case, while the killer (Cross) finds cyber-routes into everyone's lives. So it's only a matter of time before Marsh's mother (Hurt) or daughter (Haskins) are threatened.
We know the villain's unredeemably evil, since when we first see him he's tormenting a kitten. With the film's schematic morality thus established, we move into the convoluted suspense, as the agents are unable to trace the webmaster's location or shut down his site. It all has something to do with the Russians. Well, not really, but they are heavily namechecked, as are the 24 million Americans who tune into this grisly display. This is the equivalent of a No 1 network TV rating.
In other words, believability or subtlety is not a prime concern here; whenever the writers get into a logical bind, they unleash another stream of computer gobbledygook that lets them do whatever they want. Through it all Hoblit keeps the film looking terrific with that anonymous Hollywood sheen, and the story stays fast-paced and mildly intriguing even when we realise that it's the standard formula after all. At least Hoblit has the nerve to get truly grisly, although he veers dangerously close to torture-porn.
The film's real strength is Lane, who gives the role real pathos, making the thin backstory about her deceased cop husband believable. And she also raises the game of both Hanks and Burke, who solidly resist the usual genre cliches (goofiness or romance, respectively). So it's a shame that the film is so derivative and tired. From the very start, it's clearly yet another of these assembly-line thrillers, so getting involved in it is never really an option.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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