Saturday, April 08, 2006

Cellular - A review

Director: David R Ellis

A Hollywood script involving every nightmare set in the world of mobile phones was waiting to happen. But as Hollywood does with every movie that it makes, it leaves that idea, which promises a lot in the initial sequences of the film, underdeveloped. But this is a B-movie (so all faults are forgiven), with one A-list actor: Kim Basinger. Without the Oscar-winning actress of L.A. Confidential, Cellular would never have gotten past the scripting stages. She does here what Colin Farrell did for Phone Booth, which was also written by Larry Cohen.
Not that Cellular is bad, but B-movies are an extinct breed. They don’t make them like that anymore. In a Hollywood dominated by the movie brats - Spielberg, Lucas, Tarantino and now, Peter Jackson - only the blockbusters like last year’s King Kong and War of the Worlds get studio attention.
But Cellular is a movie that is a reminder of a forgotten process of going out there with camera in hand, shoot some footage, efficiently edit that and put out a feature film worth watching. Movies, increasingly so, are today shot in front of a blue screen with actors not responding to their colleagues but to the illusion of a special effect, later worked into a scene on a computer.
, however, is a frill-free film shot on a small budget that derives its thrills from a tightly written script and the occasional one-liner. Twenty years from now on, the movie will be as good or bad as it is now. Can you honestly say that for King Kong?
Chris Evans, who makes an energetic and enthusiastic debut, as Ryan plays his role with careless abandon. Not for him are the difficulties of attempting to act. He is good looking and can run, hop, drive and beat up the baddies as good as any other actor alive or dead. Plus, he comes a good deal cheaper than Tom Cruise.
While spending a warm, bright day at the beach, Ryan is summoned over his high-tech gizmo of a cell phone by Jessica, a biology schoolteacher played by Basinger, who has been kidnapped. At first indifferent, Ryan soon realises that only he is between the bad guys and certain death for Jessica and her all-American family. If his phone signal dies, so will Jessica.
So the movie is filled with every glitch that can possibly occur in a cell phone. Ryan runs out of battery, his signal is constantly on the verge of failing, he drives into a tunnel only to realise that the phone and Jessice might die on him…well, every cliché you can think of is there in the movie. The script is so full of holes that after a while, you learn to take it easy, enjoy the cheap thrills and plot twists. At least that is what is recommended. Willful suspension of disbelief does have its uses.
Much of the acting, particularly in the scenes supposed to be charged with emotion, is left to Basinger, who botches it up, just by, well, shivering too much. If the next Oscar were to be given to the actress who most rapidly shakes every body part there is, then Basinger would win it hands down. Just watching her shiver her lips and limbs, made me regret that the actress who in her heyday was cast in Batman had to do this to earn a living just because she was a “little” older.
But characteristic of sex symbols, Basinger appearing in almost inch-thick make-up and painted lips, constantly seems to forget that she is not the seductress here anymore. She is supposed to be in trauma, but her silken pleas to her rescuer over the phone are more sexual in their tone than desperate.
William H. Macy plays the one good cop in the movie, which is infested with bad cops, and true to style, plays it with clinical perfection. Queen Latifah appears and then disappears just as fast. The movie is not half as good as Phone Booth, but is at least watchable, and if you like decent B-movies and Basinger, you ought to go and have some fun.