Film

Cellular (2004)

Cynthia Fuchs

Cellular is so corny it's even behind its own time.


Cellular

Director: David R. Ellis
Cast: Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, William H. Macy, Jason Statham, Noah Emmerich
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: New Line
First date: 2004
US Release Date: 2004-09-10

Cellular is so corny it's even behind its own time. Witness its ostensible tension-making-and-breaking joke, when the villains seek their victim, a good kid named Ryan (Chris Evans), hiding among the crowd at the Santa Monica Pier. Anxiously straining to see their quarry, the bad guys talk to one another on walkie-talkies: "He's the one with the cell phone," hisses head baddie Ethan (Jason Statham). At which point the camera cuts to his cohort's point of view, a veritable sea of boys on cell phones. Oi. What planet have these guys been on, that they wouldn't have known this is the way the world works now?

Bereft of logic, suspense, or reason for being, Cellular is the latest based-on-a-Larry-Cohen-story movie. These range from the frankly amazing Hell Up in Harlem to the considerably less impressive Phone Booth. Incredibly, this one charts a new low. Dully directed by erstwhile movieland hairdresser David R. Ellis, it can't seem to get out of its own way, putting young Ryan in one implausible situation after another, as if hoping you won't notice the swift descent into nonsense.

The shenanigans begin when Ethan and his couple of ugghy thug-buddies smash through Jessica's (Kim Basinger) glass back door. After shooting her Latina housekeeper (who gets to say all of one word before she's dispatched), they haul Jessica back to a "hideaway" (nice joint in the LA burbs) and lock her in an attic, fee to roam and moan. The camera circles her as she checks windows and walls for a way out: nothing! And then she finds it, the item that will drive her plot, a telephone that Ethan has helpfully smashed to bits minutes before. Being a high school science teacher, Jessica has the wherewithal to piece the thing back together, tap-tapping the naked wires until she makes a connection to, you guessed it, Ryan's cell phone.

Voice quaking, she states her case, that she's kidnapped, has no idea where she is (though she seems never to have been blindfolded or knocked out), and worries that she's about to be killed like "my housekeeper." Ryan, of course, has no reason to believe this crazy lady, but as his beloved ex-girlfriend Chloe (Jessica Biel) has just accused him of being "irresponsible, self-centered, and completely childish," he's inclined to do the conscientious thing, and take this crazy lady seriously. This especially when Jessica leaves the phone on as Ethan re-enters the attic just long enough to threaten her with a belt and make her scream.

Following this strange bit of voyeuristic thrilling (the camera cuts to Ryan's horrified but can't-help-but-be-intrigued face as he overhears her cries), the kid leaps into action. That is, he takes the "10 minutes" she asks to stop by the nearest cop station and report the crime. And here he meets the third term (or fourth, if you count the cardboard villains) in this tipsy structure, desk sergeant Bob Mooney (William H. Macy). It's his last day on the job, and his retirement solicits a few "You're pussy-whipped" jokes among his fellows, because he's headed home to manage a day spa, complete with avocado masks and strawberry toners, with his wife. In other words, he's playing Robert Duvall's part in Falling Down, an earnest, weary, 27-year veteran who needs to be reminded how to "be a man."

Ryan, on a sort of other hand, needs to discover his courageous action hero's heart -- which he accomplishes instantly. As soon as things go wrong at the police station (the cell phone loses power when he climbs a staircase), Ryan decides that the cops can't help him, and so he sets out to deal with Jessica's predicament himself, swinging into a series of increasingly incoherent and unbelievable action scenes -- car chases, running and leaping, even shooting. And just moments before, he was just another "irresponsible" kid on the pier, brandy new picture cell phone in hand.

Near-missing the chances to save her child (actually named Ricky Martin and played by Adam Taylor Gordon, his ostensible wear-and-tear during the day indicated by crude dark-circled-eye makeup) and her husband Craig (Richard Burgi) from Ethan and crew, Ryan steals a school security vehicle and later, a very speedy Porsche Carrera from the supposedly comic-reliefy self-absorbed lawyer (Rick Hoffman). (And speaking of utterly tired stereotypes, another accidental phone call goes to a character identified only as "Vietnamese artist" [Dat Phan], who speaks in haphazard English and postures energetically, to what end we'll never know.)

Ryan's own antics earn him a few minutes on the local tv news, accused of a "crime spree" when he pulls out a gun to get a cell phone charger, steals that Mooney, meanwhile, begins to rethink his close encounter with the kid, and follows up on the kidnapping charge: forced to fire his gun, Mooney pursues the case even when his captain (Noah Emmerich) suggests he back off. As the plot turns simultaneously murkier and more predictable, Jessica is increasingly ridiculous. In part this is a function of Basinger's disappointing performance, and in part it's a function of the lines she's reading, from "Are you there?" to "We've all seen their faces, they can't let us live" to "I feel so helpless, it's my family!" And oh yes, she's reading these lines over the phone, which enhances her distance and reduces her thin performance to miniscule dimensions.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5

Multi-tasking on your smart phone consumes too many resources, including memory, and can cause the system to "choke". Imagine what it does to your brain.

In the simplest of terms, Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen's The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World is a book about technology and the distractions that often accompany it. This may not sound like anything earth shattering. A lot of people have written about this subject. Still, this book feels a little different. It's a unique combination of research, data, and observation. Equally important, it doesn't just talk about the problem—it suggests solutions.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image