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Cellular
2004 - PG-13 - 94 Mins.
Director: David R. Ellis
Producer: Dean Devlin
Written By: Larry Cohen (story) Chris Morgan (screenplay)
Starring: Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, William H. Macy, Jason Statham, Jessica Biel
Review by: Greg Ursic
Official Site: www.cellularthemovie.com
   

No I'm not interested in switching phone plans right now.
Once the domain of technophiles and status seekers, it’s now hard to go anywhere on the planet without seeing someone cradling a cell phone and carrying on a conversation. For surfer dude Ryan (Chris Evans) his cell phone is second only to his board, providing both communication and recreation. Intent on trying to get back in his girlfriend’s good graces after yet another bout of masculine insensitivity, he sets off on a simple errand when he receives a crank call from a woman named Jessica (Kim Basinger) who says that she’s been kidnapped and needs his help. Ryan laughingly indulges her for a few moments, but worried that he’s going to burn up precious minutes, tells her that he has to go. Only when he hears a malevolent voice barking orders followed by Jessica’s anguished screams does he realizes that this is not a joke and if he drops this call, people could die.

Given that phones play a role in most people’s lives, it should come as no surprise that they often play a role in cinema: you know that a peeling phone shattering the silence of a sleeping household can only be bad news, or that the absence of a dial tone during a thunderstorm means that there’s something evil afoot. However choosing to make the phone your main plot device is a risky premise, and 'Cellular’s trailers lead me to believe that I was in for a derivative cliche ridden film that would at best be a snoozer and at worst painful to watch. This is one of those times when it’s a pleasure to be wrong.

Writer Larry Cohen wastes little time on backgrounds or family histories, choosing instead to jump into the story with both feet: the opening credits have barely faded from the screen when we are plunged into the brutality and desperation of Jessica’s dilemma. The story hits a temporary lull while we are forced to watch the inanity of Ryan’s problems, but thankfully the set up takes less than five minutes. Once he’s on the road and Jessica - after a little MacGyver-like ingenuity - makes a connection, the story quickly finds its legs, and the action begins.

Kim Basinger, who looks better than many actresses half her age, reminds us why she has a little statue on her mantle with her name on it: unlike her annoying screamfest in 'Batman', here she succeeds in conveying Jessica’s terror and confusion. The agony that crosses her face and plaintive wail that she emits when she discovers that they intend to harm the rest of her family is raw emotion at its best. Chris Evans' Ryan is a careful blend of cocky self-assuredness and blind confusion which help you to accept the outlandish situation he’s been placed in. Both Basinger and Evans also face the challenge of how to look like they’re really involved in a conversation when much of their time is spent solo and much to their credit they are convincing.

Jason Statham who’s been called Britain’s answer to Bruce Willis, drops his quirky funny guy persona to create a singularly nasty villain that makes you nervous whenever he’s onscreen. Finally, providing backup is William H. Macy as the put-upon sensitive cop who, after having just retired from the force, is dragged back into the fray by his sense of duty.

While 'Cellular' is guilty of indulging in the occasional cliche i.e. the classic cell phone/tunnel dilemma, most are implicit elements of the plot rather than simple gimmicks, and therefore not only excusable, but arguably necessary. Rather than a lazy rehashing of tired film conventions, it is tightly edited, skillfully acted and carefully blends action, tension, and humor, with several surprises thrown in for good measure, making for a thoroughly enjoyable movie-going experience.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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