Enjoyable but flawed

"You want the scent? Smell yourself." Hannibal Lecter

If you're longing for Lecter, get some good Chianti and watch Silence of the Lambs for the umpteenth time. The serial killer in the enjoyable Untraceable is not half as interesting as the cunning Hannibal, but then again the real interest is cybercrime, the Internet's ability to draw the world to a site, which if not regulated, can serve snuff as easily as sex.

The menace of the Portland, Oregon, police and FBI is a cyber-psycho who tortures his victims on the Web in real time, all of whom die more quickly with each hit to the site. Although the brutality is not as explicit as in Saw or Se7en, the film effectively suggests our communal relationship in cyberspace and ultimately our responsibility to restrict the criminal potential, admittedly an extreme case here.

Diane Lane plays agent Jennifer Marsh, a sometimes cool, too many times emotional cyber cop, whose initial scene shows her competent in her job. Yet her antagonist proves almost invulnerable to her and the rest of the force. Most of the film is a cat and mouse (electronic this time) game during which the cops almost get him, but not quite.

The denouement is a disappointment after the first third's emphasis on the electronic drama; it all devolves into some primitive communication, standard intuition, visual observation, and plain old luck. Marsh's continually emotional response is neither favorable to the women's movement nor objective police work. Or maybe I've just been preconditioned by TV's cool CSI-like investigators.

Director Gregory Hoblit's pacing is much better than his direction of Ms. Lane; Anastos Michos's cinematography is spot on for a dreary, menacing Portland. In the absence of Silence of the Lambs and the presence of so much junk at this time of year, Untraceable has the only trace of a "B" movie thriller for a while. And don't forget the fava beans.