Cellular

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


             Don’t we all have special standards for thrillers?  If they scare us enough, we become forgiving of their faults.  If we didn’t, there would be no excuse for “Cellular,” which is rife with contradictions and implausible situations.  We say, “Distract me, please,” the thriller obliges, and we ask little more of it.  This one is a lot of fun. 

            “Cellular” establishes immediately a loving relationship between Jessica (Kim Basinger), a beautiful mother, and her young son.  After delivering the boy to school, Jessica returns home, greets her maid, and is immediately abducted by three louts who burst through the door in a tone shift so sudden and loud that it is possibly dangerous to your health.  The five-minute snooze so many of us steal at the beginning of a movie is over, and it’s all the rest you’ll get.

Locked in an attic, Jessica fiddles with the wires of a smashed telephone (doesn’t everyone have a telephone in the attic?) until she reaches Ryan (Chris Evans), a lazy beach bum hanging out on the boardwalk by the ocean.  They manage to hold the connection for most of the movie while Ryan tries to rescue the stranger thereby redeeming himself from a life of sloth.   

There’s a lot of stuff here that we’ve been watching since we were ten years old, whatever our present age, but the suspense never weakens.  Don’t bother to ask why Jessica never takes off her stiletto heels, or why no moviemaker on earth can resist a “Fatal Attraction moment”, or why car chases always dominate.  Don’t worry that no one manages to summon the police, or that multiple daylight car thefts can be so easy.  The jet speed of the movie makes such ordinary problems irrelevant.  The most satisfying part of this is that the actors are in on the joke.  They do their level best to scare the life out of us, but they don’t take themselves or their movie seriously.  There is a Keystone Kops aspect to all this, and it’s that attitude that makes it fun. 

             The only downside is that the criminals are so thuggish and the arch villain so dumb and pasty soft, but that’s part of the slapstick.  They reel you in by making you care about mother and child and then let out the line while you chase all over town after a bunch of dummy criminals.  Kim Basinger does a fine job of making Jessica smart, lovely, and resourceful.  Here is a beautiful woman who can fix a broken phone.  Forget that among the men and women in the audience, few can even find the record button on the VCR.

Just enjoy allowing Chris Evans, William H. Macy, and Kim Basinger work to a thoroughly chilling score that leaves you slumped in fear or bolt upright, eyes wide open, waiting for the next electric jolt.  You know you’re being had, and that’s just the way a grade B thriller is supposed to be. 


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