Now, when I'm working, I don't usually do much more than steal images and get the fuck off peoples' sites. But since this guy is in my line of work also, it felt only proper that I give his reviews the once over, (A) to support my fellow bloggers and (B) to judge the competition to see whether it's worth my while continuing to post. So, I took a look at his review of Untraceable, and wouldn't you know it - It's another fucking remake! But you won't hear about that from the producers, no. And IMDB doesn't list anything in either the "trivia" or "connections" sections. Because this movie is a complete rip-off of an episode of the classic TV series MillenniuM.
Now, just to be fair on Untraceable, I went through the list of writers for both screenplay AND story and checked their other works, just in case it was the MillenniuM guys making a feature film out of their own story - but it fucking wasn't. I even went to Wikipedia to check if there was any controversy over such a blatantly stolen idea, but the only controversy with the production listed is "Several critics viewed the film as hypocritical for indulging in the 'torture porn' it condemns". So, nowhere is it acknowledged this this is not an original story, and yet the plot summary is so close to that the the MillenniuM episode "The Mikado" that it was enough for me to go crazy and start typing this shit out at 3 in the morning.
Now, I know what you're thinking - it is entirely possible for 2 people to come up with the same idea individually, without being aware of the other's works. I agree, that is entirely true. I once made a short film which featured a scene in which I injected myself with heroin and passed out whilst "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed was playing in the background, oblivious to the fact that Danny Boyle had already done this some 15 years earlier. however, had my short film also featured me falling back into the carpet so it was as though I was looking out at the world from inside a deep hole, before my friend dragged me to the corner outside the hospital because I was ODing, then you could be fairly certain I had stolen the idea from Trainspotting.
So, let's see how closely linked these two are, shall we? On his Review Blog, "Tom" lists the plot of the film as
"A secret service agent, Jennifer Marsh, gets caught in a very personal and deadly cat-and-mouse game with a serial killer who knows that people (being what they are – both curious and drawn to the dark side of things) will log onto an “untraceable” website where he conducts violent and painful murders LIVE on the net. The more people who log on and enter the website, the quicker and more violently the victim dies"Whereas here is my personal synopsis for "The Mikado" (Season 2):
"A serial killer, whom Frank has attempted to apprehend once before when he was operating back in the 1970s, sets up numerous untraceable websites, showing females tied to a chair, who are then brutally murdered live on the net when the sites reach the correct number of hits, which is painted on the wall in the background. The killer leaves clues for Frank in each of his web streams, and by the end it becomes a deadly cat-and-mouse game, as Frank attempts to apprehend the mysterious "Avatar", who is always one step ahead of police."
So, we have a personal relationship - Frank knows the killer and has tried to stop him before. A serial killer using untraceable websites, which he uses to host streams of himself killing his victims when the correct number of hits is reached (as the killer knows that people will be drawn to the sites out of morbid curiosity), and it leads to a cat-and-mouse game which becomes almost deadly at the climax. Yep, it's the exact same fucking plot. Not only this, but in the IMDB trivia section for Untraceable, it is revealed that in the climax as Agent Marsh is tracking the killer down, she appears on one of his cameras on the website - something which happens to Frank as well when he is hunting down Avatar (originally set to be named "Omega", incidentally, this idea had to be scrapped when the writers learnt that a large portion of the show's budget came from product placement, including payment from Omega, in exchange for Lance Henriksen wearing one of their watches, who certainly didn't want a serial killer named after their company).
On Tom's blog, he also refers to the style of the movie Untraceable, saying "it was just like a longer CSI programme". Well, anyone with half a brain (or who is a regular here) can tell you that CSI is simply a rip-off of MillenniuM anyway, simply focussing more on the forensics side as opposed to profiling, and keeping things far more light-hearted, so it doesn't have the depressing after taste of MillenniuM. Basically, cop shows prior to MillenniuM were either cheesy over the top Miami Vice style shows, or proper old-fashioned detective shows like Morse (or featured Dennis Watermann saying "You're nicked you slag!"). All these shows obsessing about new ways to catch criminals, from 'CSI' to 'NCIS' to 'Lie to Me' to whatever the fuck other shows they've brought out that fit this bill, are all based off MillenniuM, since this was the first show to do that.
There is nothing in what I've read which separates Untraceable from "The Mikado", except I already know which of the two is better written. It just pisses me off so much that people can get away with ripping off an idea from a show, and not even crediting the writers. There was a discussion on IMDB a while back about the overlaps between Natural Born Killers and the X-Files episode "Lazarus". In Lazarus, the bank robber uses the line "No matter what happens, we'll both be looking up at the same stars. You make every day like New Year's Eve." - similar to Mallory's line to Mickey about looking up at the same stars in Natural Born Killers, as well as her line "You Make every day feel like Kindergarten". Then, later in the episode, when the robber describes what he and his wife did on their wedding day, he says "We went down to the beach, and I got out my buck knife, and slashed open my palm, and then I slashed your palm, and we held hands like this, and let the blood run in the ocean." Then he says "We'll be married in all the oceans now". Now, these two lines make me think that either Tarantino or Oliver Stone watched that episode and stole their ideas, and there was less than a year between Lazarus and NBK. So for there to be 10 times the similarities between Untraceable and "The Mikado" that there were here, with the Mikado preceeding Untraceable by a clear 10 years, there is no doubt in my mind that these bastards saw this episode, thought "ha! no-one watched that show! we'll steal the plot and rework it slightly and make a film out of it without even crediting the guys who came up with the idea" - and that makes me mad. So, please, watch "The Mikado", and marvel in the beauty of the writing (this actaully also applies to the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta for which the episode is named). Season 2 was probably the worst season of Millennium, and yet that episode is still absolutely incredible, and not one to miss. I, meanwhile, intend to get behind, like, 7 proxies, and track down the makers of Untraceable to kill them horribly online for bringing shame on a great TV show by ripping it off so blatantly.