Written by a phone-obsessed Larry Cohen (he also wrote the tense Phone Booth with Colin Farrell), Cellular is a movie that relies on some logic gaps to get started. Characters do dumb things, and you can only yell at the screen in an attempt to help them overcome their mind block. Once things begin to roll, the action scenes start, and the tension can build, all of that is excused.
Kim Basinger is believable as a panic stricken kidnapped woman who makes a desperate call on a shattered phone to save her life. The call ends up in Chris Evans’ cell phone, and this begins the movie’s insane pacing, rarely losing its grip on the audience. The mysteries begin to pile up, and add that extra layer the film needs to pull it out of general action sequences.
Characters are set up only because they have to be. There’s little known about anyone, and almost everyone attached to Evan’s character is inserted for comic relief. Some of these unnecessary comic sequences feel out of place, while a few perfectly tease audiences out of certain clichés.
Action sequences are completely over-blown, funny even, but it doesn’t matter. This one moves by too quickly to focus on anything like this. It comes in just a little over 90-minutes, and while it does lose its grip a little around the hour mark, as the conclusion builds, it grabs everyone back.
Product placement is frustrating, especially for Office Max in the opening moments. It’s distracting enough to be a major problem, and for some people, it may be too much. To think someone is actually going to hold a box perfectly so the logo is dead center in the shot is just hard to swallow, as is the apparent random stupidity of the characters.
When it resolves all the problems, it may come out as a blatant Hollywood ending, and it would have been nice to know what happens to the characters (particularly Evans, who commits carjackings, causes massive pile-ups, fires a gun in public, and sets up a cop in an airport). It’s not a completely brain dead thriller, but it does have those moments. Still, when the innovative final credits role, you will come away satisfied enough to realize you were entertained. (**** out of *****)
New Line never lets us down with their transfers, and that’s certainly true from those in their long-standing Platinum series. Fine detail is outstanding, the bright color scheme giving the film a high-definition sheen. Compression is rough in spots, showing through obviously. It’s clean enough to pick up small things otherwise missed in a lesser transfer. The print doesn’t have a scratch on it. (****)
Mastered specifically for home theaters, the major action sequences prove perfect for showing off hardware. If separation is your thing, listen to the short scene in the tunnel, as cars go by through the stereo channels, and then move into the rears. Bass could be a little stronger when cars ram into each other. Bullets rapidly make it to their destination, and even though it goes by fast, you still follow it if you’re listening. (****)
While it’s not hard to tell this is a Platinum release by the audio and video, the special features are not what we have come to expect. There are five deleted scenes, including a wisely cut extension to the ending. These also have optional commentary, as does the film itself with Cohen, director David Ellis, and Chris Morgan (who wrote the screenplay).
Calling Out is the first of a trio of featurettes. This one focuses on cell phones, how they came to be, and some of the controversy surrounding them. It runs 19-minutes, and offers up a lot of information (the idea for portable phones was created in the 1940s!).
The next one is the only one to actually deal with the film itself, Dialing up Cellular. It’s blatantly promotional, though there is some nice behind the scenes footage to go over the general generic praising between actors. The trilogy of features ends with Code of Silence, a documentary on corrupt LA police officers that shares a loose bond with the film. It’s done well, and if the story isn’t familiar, this seems to provide all the necessary information. Trailers finish off the disc. (***)
Cellular wasn’t a huge hit, but it did make New Line about $12 million just in box office alone. Dean Devlin produced this, (one of his few non sci-fi flicks) and that’s probably where some of the comedy comes from. Look for his cameo too as a cab driver.