Dir: David R.Ellis. US 2004. 90mins
Totallyimplausible from start to finish, suspense thriller Cellular has a silly premise and zero chills, but offers plenty ofaction (without a single explosion) and an easy-to-follow storyline. Given thedearth of good popcorn movies during the past five or six weeks, it may evenmanage to hold on for a second weekend before silently falling to the nextmediocre Hollywood offering. Ancillary markets in the US look healthy,probably moreso on rental rather than sell-through.
Internationally it is likely to play less well. It has apeculiarly US look that will not travel well, while Basinger - and certainlyEvans - are not big enough draws abroad to entice crowds.
The high-conceptstory is set in motion when Jessica (Basinger), a seemingly ordinary suburbanmother, is kidnapped from her upscale home in a fashionable section of LosAngeles and thrown roughly into an attic somewhere. She has no idea where sheis or what her captors want (turns out they are bad cops).
Luckily for her,she teaches secondary school science and manages to re-wire a telephone thathas been smashed to smithereens by one of the thugs. Although she isn't able todial out, the phone randomly connects with a cell phone owned by Ryan (Evans,of The Perfect Score and Not Another Teen Movie), a ratherself-centred, callous young man who, once he finally believes Jessica's story,becomes her lifeline to the outside world (and, in the process, develops aconscience, a sense of altruistic purpose and extraordinary driving skills).
ScreenwriterMorgan (working from an original idea by Cohen, who also wrote last year's PhoneBooth) keeps the story hopping with a slew of obstacles for Ryan toovercome (some obvious, some semi-clever) and lots of convenient, albeitcompletely unbelievable, solutions. These include stealing one car, hijackinganother, driving the wrong way down the motorway, evading both the bad guys andthe cops, robbing a store at gunpoint and, essentially, repeatedly risking hisown life to try and save Jessica and her family.
Of all theunbelievable situations in this film, however, none can match the remarkablereliability of Ryan's cell phone. It's the energiser bunny of cell phones,never out of range and always loud and clear. Which brings up another mystery:why can Ryan overhear everything that Jessica and her captors are saying to oneanother but the thugs don't hear Ryan chattering away on the other end of theline' And the dirty cops angle has been done so many times before that it feelsstale.
In the bestpopcorn movies, audiences become invested in the story and characters. Not sohere. Basinger is asked to do little more than appear terrified although, toher credit, she does a thoroughly convincing job of it. Evans performs withappropriate gusto but the role itself is too unbelievable to be credible.Statham makes an effective, if generic, bad guy, while Macy appears as anhonest cop who provides both moral integrity and comic relief.
Prod co: Electric Entertainment Production
US dist: New LineCinema
Prods: Dean Devlin,Lauren Lloyd
Exec prods: DouglasCurtis, Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener , Keith Goldberg
Scr: Chris Morgan,from a story by Larry Cohen
Cine: Gary Capo
Pro des: JaymesHinkle
Ed: Eric Sears
Music: John Ottman
Main cast: KimBasinger, Chris Evans, Jason Statham, William H Macy