Turn on your phones
It was only a matter of time before some filmmaker made an ode to the cellular phone. The little bugger has taken over enough social lives and destroyed enough quiet moments to have permanent residence in the national consciousness. Remember when you were able to have an argument with somebody and then go cool off? Not anymore, because you’ve got that little patience-killer in your hip pocket, and you’re too curious to turn it off.
Cellular is a film that plays upon all those little things people love and hate about those miniature communication demons. Writers Chris Morgan and Larry Cohen along with director David R. Ellis have fun with all of the ways a cellular phone can help you, annoy you, let you down, actually videotape things, and perhaps even become a major tool in the salvation of a woman in peril.
The woman in peril is Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger) inexplicably kidnapped by a crusty, close-shaven guy (Jason Statham) who doesn’t immediately reveal his intentions. She’s placed in a dirty attic in the middle of nowhere, and it just happens to have a phone hanging on the wall. Before she notices it, Crusty Close-Shaven Guy takes it out with a sledgehammer, and all hope is lost. Or is it?
You see, Jessica is a science teacher, undoubtedly proficient in the ways of smashed telephones and their relative usability. She starts screwing around with the debris, and, bingo, she gets a connection. The man who picks up his cellular phone on the other end is the somewhat dimwitted Ryan (Chris Evans), who thinks Jessica’s full of it when she explains her predicament. Being that she’s fairly convincing, and there would be no movie without his compliance, he starts to believe her, and the race to save Kim Basinger and her family is on.
Somehow, due to the solid direction, decent performances or angel dust in my granola, I bought into this silliness as a means for goofy entertainment. It’s implausible on many levels, but so were Die Hard, Speed, Cliffhanger and a host of other brain-dead action flicks.
It’s helpful that Ryan is a dim bulb, which makes it easier to accept his stunning lack of ability in locating a good cop. At one point, he does enter a station and hands off the phone to a distracted police officer (an annoyed and funny William H. Macy), who shucks him off to the fourth floor due to a lobby riot. Ryan can’t get a signal in the stairwell so, rather than setting the phone down and running upstairs for help, leaves the police station and goes solo. At no time does he simply pull over, use a pay phone and dial 911. This might annoy some, but I thought it was funny.
The main reason this all works would have to be Basinger, who is straight-up believable as someone scared-to-death (she probably got a lot of practice with fiery ex-beau Alec Baldwin). She screams, shivers and shakes with the best of them, providing scenes involving Statham with a true sense of dread. With this and The Door in the Floor, Basinger is having a good year.
While Cellular is befitting of the annual September trash film heap, it rests atop the other garbage because this is a trashy flick with style and zip. You could spend an entire afternoon debating the plot holes and impossibilities in this one, but sometimes you need to turn your brain off. You also need to turn off your damned cellular phones in theaters. Sure enough, two went off during the screening I attended, and one of the recipients started a conversation. I hate that! (CPL, CS, NM)