Starring: Kim Basinger, William H. Macy, Jason Statham, Chris Evans, Jessica Biel
Synopsis: A suburban housewife is kidnapped and her only hope for rescue is a broken telephone.
Cellular is a popcorn movie that really delivers. Director David
R. Ellis gives the audience about 2 minutes of exposition before the
movie cranks up the action. In the first 10 minutes Kim Basinger
is kidnapped, manhandled and threatened with death. Which may
please you if you are not especially a fan of Ms. Basinger. I
have no particular problem with her myself apart from the fact the her
career has spanned some of the most appalling movies, with a few
notable exceptions – L.A. Confidential being one.
Cellular’s basic premise is a locked room drama. How can an
imperilled woman manage to save herself from kidnappers when she is
locked in a room from which there is no escape? Writer Larry
Cohen inverts the premise of his screenplay for Phone Booth, by locking
a woman in a room with a broken telephone and giving the hero of the
piece freedom to roam, all the while attached to his mobile phone
(hereafter to be known as cellphone a la the American name for the
device). Some brief character development lets the audience know
that Jessica Martin (Basinger) is also a 10th grade science teacher,
and hey presto, she has managed to use the smashed phone to call a
cellphone number. Enter Ryan (Chris Evans), hero of the piece,
who at first thinks he is a victim of a prank call but who quickly
comes to realise that he is Jessica’s single avenue for rescue.
Okay, after reading the paragraph above you will surely know that this
movie isn’t in danger of being awarded the Oscar for Best Picture
(although the little golden man has been awarded for some big budget
popcorn previously – can anyone say ‘Titanic’). However, this movie
does what it needs to do and it does it well. The bad guys are
threatening. Jason Statham (The Transporter, Lock Stock etc. and
Snatch) is actually really menacing as Ethan, the leader of the ‘bad
guys’. Basinger does quite a good job at being the woman under
threat…no one can tremble quite like Basinger and damn, if she
doesn’t look pretty good too! The director, David R. Ellis, has a
long history as a 2nd unit director and stunt coordinator so the
mechanics of the action are well in hand, particularly in the driving
Chris Evans acquits himself well as Ryan, the hapless owner of the
cellphone whose number Basinger manages to call. Relatively
unknown, he assumes the mantle of action hero with ease and a degree of
charming self deprecation and chutzpah. His creates a believable
character in Ryan, a twentysomething with ex-girlfriend problems, who
manages to overcome his self centred attitude to life when the
circumstances demand it. His heedless heroism is contagious and
Ellis knows exactly how to wring out every ounce of it.
Pleasingly, Evans does not take himself too seriously in the role, so
there is no heavy handed Michael-Bay-type flag waving or chest beating
to suffer through. Also, for those of that persuasion, he’s not
exactly unattractive. Popcorn and beefcake, my favourite dish.
William H. Macy is good as usual. It is really a one note role,
but he’s such a consummate professional it doesn’t appear to be
so. Strangely Jessica Biel has a nothing cameo of 5 minutes
screen time tops. So I am not sure why she is there – unless
she’s a friend of the director. Any passably attractive woman
could have played Ryan’s ex-girlfriend who is tired of him being ‘so
Are you getting a good picture of the plot now? Woman in
desperate need. Boy wants girl he lost back but he needs to grow
up. Ring, ring, woman in need of someone reliable calling.
Car chases, explosions, car theft, sexy stunt driving, some cool
gunplay, woman in need gets some of her own back. Handsome young
hero uses his head to save the day. Ex-girlfriend suitably
convinced of hero’s reliable nature. The end.
Don’t go into Cellular expecting anything and I think you will be
suitably satisfied. Is it a long term pleaser? Nope.
Does it make you want to see more of Jason Statham…yes please.
Does in bring anything new to the genre? Not really.
Likelihood of writer Larry Cohen being obsessed with phones? Very
high. Size of the plot holes? Large indeed. The
scenes with the lawyer and his shiny new porsche? Priceless.
The Litmus Test