Roaming thriller

Rated 3.0

Writer/director Larry Cohen has mostly eluded mainstream cult status (ahem), which is odd, in that he has been churning out quirky scripts (and sometimes directing same) since the late-'40s. From the sublime (Q: The Flying Serpent) to the sub-par (Uncle Sam), his stories invariably feature quirky characters caught in a web of absurdist twists and tangles.

Cellular (story by same) is no different: Fishnet-wearin’ biology teacher Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger) is kidnapped and held for ransom in an attic. Loathe to smash the window and make a break for it, she instead reconstructs a smashed telephone and taps random numbers out with the bare wires, eventually making contact with a cell phone held by seemingly callow youth Ryan (Chris Evans).

The inverse of Cohen’s previous script for Phone Booth, instead of a man trapped on a phone in one spot, here we have the protagonist still trapped to the insidious device in a life-or-death situation but able to roam the entire city (LA instead of NY) as he at turns tries to connect with the cops, her child, her husband and even her kidnappers.

His struggles ultimately gain the attentions of the media and a befuddled police sergeant (William H. Macy), as prototypical Cohen plot-twists reveal that not everything is as it seems.

Ably directed by former stuntman David R. Ellis (also director of Final Destination: Apocalypse), Cellular is a game thriller with a loopy sense of humor about itself.